Tesla To Limit Autopilot Somewhat Because… Crazy People

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Originally published on EV Obsession.

In a move that should be a surprise to practically no one, Tesla is going to be placing restrictions (presumably by software update) on the autopilot function to stop drivers from using the feature in “unsafe” ways, according to CEO Elon Musk.

Given that the potential had been there (however unlikely it was) that the autopilot would be pulled in its entirety — owing to some of the crazier YouTube videos out there, amongst other things — I can say I’m actually quite happy with the decision. There certainly seem to be some bozos out there, so limiting the feature so that it can only be used in situations like those that it was designed to be used in is probably quite a good thing.



The comments from Musk came during last night’s Tesla Motors quarterly conference call, which saw Musk also note that preliminary data seems to show that the Autopilot features have actually prevented quite a number of accidents so far — and, maybe more importantly, that it hasn’t caused any accidents so far (as far as the company knows).

Here’s a transcription of the comments in question coming to us via “Robbo” on the Tesla Motors Club forum:

From the call:

“Almost a million a day of cars that are — have Autopilot hardware. So, I mean, but the early data, this is early data, emphasize, is that it’s very positive. So we’re aware of many accidents that were prevented from Autopilot and we’re not aware of any that were caused by Autopilot. That’s — but this is still — this is still early and — but it’s a good indication. So it appears to be quite beneficial from a safety standpoint and I believe some of our customers have posted videos to this respect.

But I do want to emphasize we’ve discouraged — there are fairly crazy videos on YouTube, we are — this is not good. And we will be putting some additional constraints on when Autopilot can be activated to minimize the possibility of people doing crazy things with it.”

Overall, that was pretty much my read on where the situation was headed — some restrictions are needed, but overall the feature seems to be a huge positive. As something of a skeptic on many aspects of technological progress, even I’ve got to wonder how anyone would doubt that computers could drive better than people (in many environments/regions anyways). People are terrible drivers.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

James Ayre has 4830 posts and counting. See all posts by James Ayre

46 thoughts on “Tesla To Limit Autopilot Somewhat Because… Crazy People

  • I see 8 articles on Tesla today. Is that new record?
    Perhaps the name of the website should be change to TeslaTechnica

    • 25 total articles published today. Tesla’s quarterly financials call was last night and it was a big one. Typically, ~50% of the top articles on here regard Tesla, so a ~33% Tesla share of output doesn’t seem out of place to me.

      Basically, though, we cover what we think are the hottest/coolest cleantech stories of the day. If Chrysler were doing what Tesla’s doing, it would be getting the coverage. The name doesn’t really matter to us, just what they’re doing.

      • Think your other sister sites balance it out better.
        I read articles on Transport Evolved and GCR everyday.
        They both have a large Tesla following, but divide the coverage among other green car news.
        On cleantechinca, I pretty much have stop reading the Tesla articles.

        I understand the Tesla articles draw web hits.

        • Why don’t you try totally stopping reading the Tesla articles? Then you won’t be wasting your time complaining about an article that you shouldn’t have read in the first place.

          Let’s see a bit of personal responsibility here. You clearly have an anti-Tesla attitude. You commonly uprate any comment critical of Tesla.
          Read the articles that you do like. If you don’t find enough then read other sites.

          • I’m sorry your feeling are hurt. That wasn’t my intent.
            I like Tesla and Elon, I’m just not a fan boy.

          • My feeings aren’t hurt. I’m just trying to help you lower the irritation level in your life.

            Just quit reading Tesla articles. Make your life better.

          • 25 articles, 8 about Tesla. No one forces you to read the Tesla articles – it’s your choice. So, you’re choosing to be irritated. Interesting.

          • And yeah, I don’t think Bob’s got hurt feeling (seems to have a thick skin :D) but it does bewilder me when people complain about certain coverage when they could more easily just skip those stories. We published 3 articles/day for a long time, then ramped up to ~7/day, ~10/day, ~15/day, and now ~20/day. We’ve been lucky enough to have the capacity to keep covering what we think are the big stories as these industries have grown by leaps and bounds. Our goal is basically still to cover all the hot cleantech stories of the day plus add as much original content as possible.

          • At least for me Tesla has a vision and is leading all other auto manufacturers. Without Tesla, there would a whole lot fewer articles on any other EVs because the manufacturers would still be resting on their ICE laurels. So keep up the good work.

          • Exactly. Many of the EVs we now have or have concepts of wouldn’t even exist.

          • idon’t mind the tesla article’s as long as the other articles get published as well so tesla is not taking so much time that other news will not get published.

          • I hadn’t realized this was a concern of some, but yeah, see my note above: we’re covering basically every story we think is worth covering.

          • i see you picked up the signal. nice and keep the good work going 🙂

        • Agreed. Another site I like is InsideEVs. Their coverage today includes the 2016 Volt, e-NV200, Leaf, i-MiEV, Outlander PHV, and ABB quick-chargers — a lot more variety than CT indeed when it comes to vehicles and related topics.

          Bonus: should you dare to point out that more than one PEV manufacturer exists there, commenters are more likely to meet you with “duh” than accusing you of being “anti” or “hater”…

          • Here’s a good example of the use of hyperbole.

          • Yes, I like some Insider EV articles too.
            Absolutely, I would say variety of articles.
            I don’t see a flood of Tesla news today on the internet.
            I sometimes like to read Steve Hanley’s articles on GAS2.
            I notice Tina is now showing up on GAS2.

          • Tina’s are reposted from here. Steve’s are posted here if I think they’re good stories.

            InsideEVs is good, but I find they speculate a lot and act like they have breaking news when it’s old news or exclusive news when it’s not exclusive, so i stopped following them a long time ago. Should maybe start again.

            Surprised you didn’t see a flood of Tesla stories. It was one of there 4 quarterly reports of the year and probably the most anticipated. There’s a lot of big news regarding the Model X (no one else has anything comparable on the market), Gigafactory (no one else has as much battery capacity planned in total as the Gigafactory is expected to pump out), Autopilot (no one else has released such advanced autopilot), a long-time Google VP hire to come in as CFO (obviously a big story), financials info that’s very important to a lot of people…

          • If I’m seeing the same articles you’re mentioning, we…
            1) (Volt) have a sales report coming (if you are mentioning that) and don’t cover ethanol since we don’t think it’s green (if you are mentioning the conversion)
            2) (e-NV200) will add to our story list but hadn’t seen. that is an owner review that they seem to have just found on YouTube somehow.
            3) (Leaf) covered that
            4) (i-MiEV) did such a review months ago
            5) (Outlander) have that planned to publish as well
            6) (Detroit Electric) hadn’t seen this news but we just covered their latest news a few days ago, and have obsessively covered everything about them since before they unveiled
            7) (ABB) covered that weeks(?) ago

            So… we haven’t skipped any except the ethanol one and just found out about the e-NV200 one thanks to you 😀

        • But what makes news “interesting”?

          Sure, the other EV/PHEV automakers are doing lots, and probably succeeding more at being Green.

          But Tesla is interesting because they aren’t doing it like other automakers.
          I love Ghosn just as much as Musk… but he’s boring. He’s got an amazing strategy, but it is still a traditional automaker model.
          So really, the news is just, meh.

          With other articles… the headline alone is enough information to get the gist of the news.
          With Tesla, 9 times out of 10… the headline cannot explain anything (and often misleading)… because what Tesla is doing is so different from traditional automakers.

          It is an exciting time for clean tech. But we have to understand that blogs like this, will follow the most “exciting” stories.

          • I love Ghosn. And any time he steps outside of boring corporate speak and talks about EVs we cover it. Really like that guy and am happy for what he is trying to do.

            And fully agree on the rest. Thanks 😀

          • I’m not seeing much exciting stuff happening in wind and solar at the time. A 7MW floater off Fukushima, record amounts of wind/solar installation. That’s three stories.

        • Definitely a lot of approaches. I don’t follow TE (probably should), but GCR simply publishes **much** less than us. Across the board, we have much more content. Even if you ignore all Tesla articles (which anyone is really free to do), I think we have more EV stories than GCR.

          And don’t get me wrong, they do great work. Some of my favorite writers there, and possibly my favorite car site other than ours. But they have a low-output model with support from their bigger “general car” parent network.

          And I think it’s important for me to note that we don’t skip other good EV stories in order to cover Tesla stories. Right now, we are covering every story we really think is worth covering. And ones I don’t think are worth covering ourselves but others may want to read, I stick in the roundups. Again, a ton of those end up being Tesla stories… because there are just a ton more Tesla stories out there.

          Even if you follow the forums (I follow a few), the TMC forum has a *ton* more content than any others, and a lot more interesting and thoughtful content (not just “this is broken. anyone else have this problem?”). I think it comes down to the automakers. Tesla is 100% focused on quickest possible EV growth it can muster. All other automakers are strolling along… or, at best, jogging. Some are feeling a fire under their but *because* of Tesla, but they’re still having a tough time mustering a sweat in order to try to get halfway around the track to where Tesla is.

    • Give me more Musk, please, not less. Elon Musk is the Henry Ford and Buckminster Fuller of our time, only better. His tri-part practical vision of distributed solar (solar PV roofs, home batteries and electric cars) is quickly moving us out of the fossil fuel era. We tend to resent all the blow-hards out in the media world; Musk isn’t one of them. He’s applying rational vision to world-wide needs.

      • He’s going to be in the history books (or history modules on tablets) for sure. Head of GM? Ford? BMW? VW? Oh, well, maybe VW now…

  • “People are terrible drivers.”

    Yes, but according to studies, people aren’t willing to accept a fully autonomous car until they are confident that it is a significantly better drive than they are… which might be hard since over 70% of drivers consider themselves above average.

    • You’re right about that! People are terrible drivers and should totally cede their car control! Except me. I’m a good driver 🙂

    • over 70% of drivers consider themselves above average

      Damn right. Only the statistics will really show people…. well, people will just deny those facts too (the mob tends to flat out deny any facts that conflict with Human-Centric ideals)So it will probably happen when Insurance companies, who are profit motivated to follow the statistics, will alter the premiums for auto insurance.Right now, meager discounts are available for safety systems that reduce injury, and driver training that reduce the chance of accidents.

      But the biggest discount that insurance companies give people… is turning 25. When statistically, people stop driving like idiots as much.
      So I would imagine premiums to differ greatly when autonomous cars are proven.

      • Hehe.. yes, autonomous driving (the better tech) will be ushered in by the market forces, not by the idealists … agian.

      • That, and I see a push to it because the millennials generation actually, on average, doesn’t like to drive. Many still do (including myself) enjoy it, but most would rather just be chauffeured to their destination…

        (Oh, and don’t forget about the trucking/delivery/Taxi/etc industries which could substantially reduce their costs with automated driving…)

        • Ageing boomers.

          I’m boomer-plus and I’m ready for my lane-keeping, adaptive cruise control and collision avoidance systems right now.

          We’ve got a population bulge heading for the nodding-off phase of their driving careers.

          • Another good market force – keeping people independent (and safely so) longer than otherwise practical…

            I know I want autonomous driving for my mother… probably have a few years before I really get concerned, but sooner is better than later!

  • There are some crazy Model S drivers on Youtube.

  • and this is why we can’t have nice things….

  • Everything is good…but how the autopilot is related to clean technology. There are sites dedicated to deep learning and machine vision.

    • It is loosely related.

      When autonomous vehicles are proliferated in large enough mass… they can optimize efficiency through close tolerance traffic and smarter driving.

      • Add in energy savings from fewer road accidents. Less energy used repairing and replaced damaged vehicles.

    • The main reason for Tesla cars to be covered on the site is that they are battery Electric vehicles and as such do not put out any fumes and hence “Clean”.
      The cars also have an autopilot feature which no one else has in a commercially available car which get people interested as people like “playing with new toys” – At long last someone has given us a new toy, so we want to talk/learn all about it.

      • Tesla is doing far more than just building an EV. They are pushing the move off fossil fuels at a rate that no other company has approached.

        Did any one company primarily drive the solar or wind technology advancements? Did that solar/wind company also lead storage solutions? Did they make transmission improvements to make the grid more efficient?

  • It’s been 3 articles on Tesla autopilot in a row. It is a strike.

    • Or a Hat Trick!

    • Yes, we are calling it a hat trick. 😀 But there is indeed a lot of debate on Autopilot. 😀

  • I love my Autopilot. I only use it on highways, where it works without any problems. I don’t what Tesla to make a sensors to detect if the driver is holding the steering wheel, because then people will start making odd thing, that can be attached on the steeing wheel, so the driver don’t need to give the steeing wheel feedback. I think a sensor that detect if you pay attention on the road would be mush better. The Autopilot work that good on highways, that I can drive 200 miles non-stop in my Tesla Model S 70D without needing to take over, I pay attention at all time, but the car drives itself. I set my hands on the steeing wheel, when the car need to do an overtake or drive past trucks etc.. I have used semi-autopilot from VW and Audi (2014 models) before, but they were useless because you only had 10 sec. before I needed to give the steering wheel feedback, it was not enough to hold my hands on the steering wheel on the VW and Audi, I needed to give the steering wheel direct feelback otherwise the system would turn off. That is why the Tesla Autopilot is the first system I have tried, that I can use and work 100%, if you follow Tesla’s guidance.

  • Surely the simple solution is.. Hands must be on the wheel at all times during autopilot.

    • Unless you sneeze! Autoilot could be very useful then.

Comments are closed.