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Autonomous Vehicles

Published on October 13th, 2019 | by Jennifer Sensiba


New Features Should Be Enjoyed Responsibly

October 13th, 2019 by  

Let’s look at a hypothetical (but ridiculous) scenario. Somebody gives your kids backpacks with a bullet-resistant panel built inside. Whatever your feelings on that, your kids really like the backpacks for other reasons, so you decide to let them use them. One day, your kids go to a friend’s house after school, and as you approach to pick them up in the evening, you hear gunshots coming from the backyard and your kids laughing! You run around the corner of the house, hoping you don’t find your kids playing with guns, only to find your friend shooting the guns at your kids!

The backpacks work, sure. Each time you see the flash of the muzzle, one of your kids falls forward, and they’re giggling about it!

“It’s no big deal! The backpacks are bulletproof!” your friend yells when you demand your kids leave the lunatic’s yard. “I was just testing the new backpacks! Isn’t this fun! We should put it on YouTube!”

The above scenario would mortify and shock nearly anybody who witnessed it, but people are doing equally dumb things with their Tesla vehicles and getting cheered on for it.

Family Members Aren’t Guinea Pigs

With the release of Tesla’s V10 software, people are doing a lot of testing. There are lots of good examples of the car doing what it’s supposed to do, and lots of examples of it doing things it shouldn’t. Smart people are doing their testing in empty parking lots, and other places where not only the car, but the lives and property of others aren’t at risk.

The dumber among us, on the other hand aren’t taking precautions. We’ve all seen the videos on social media, with people almost getting their Tesla into low-speed fender benders. Some may have wrecked their cars, but they aren’t putting it on social media for all to see the embarrassing results. None of that compares to the video above, though.

The guy actually tests advanced summon by putting his daughter in the path of the vehicle and seeing if it would stop. Yes, it’s cool to like Tesla. It’s cool to like and even trust Elon Musk. Your own children deserve better than to be used as guinea pigs in a test, especially when failure would mean such terrible consequences. [Editor’s note: From my experience with the technology, this case doesn’t seem concerning at all. You quickly learn that the system is hyper-cautious and only goes at a certain speed anyway. The girl and dog in this video are not in harm’s way, not at all. However, I’m open to people sharing various opinions here — we aren’t a bunch of robot clones. Also, while I don’t agree with the concern or criticism regarding this video, the advice to be extra super cautious is often good advice. —Zach]

This isn’t the only time someone has done this, either. Earlier this year, a man decided to test Tesla’s automatic emergency braking on his wife. You can read the full details at the link in the last sentence, but for the TL;DR crowd, here’s a quick summary: the car narrowly misses mowing the woman down, and in one case, the man had to stomp the brakes himself at the last minute.

How To Do This The Right Way

Yes, it’s cool to test these things, but use a dummy like the IIHS and other testing organizations do.

I own the same vehicle Euro NCAP tested in the video above, and I’ve been seriously looking at testing its automatic emergency braking (AEB) for an article. Test dummies, especially walking robotic ones, are expensive. I’m not going to use my children, or anybody’s children, as test dummies. They’re not only more expensive, but I’m not a psychopath. There’s a refrigerator box and a few other cardboard items in my front room with a fun future ahead, though. Stay tuned! 

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About the Author

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to explore the Southwest US with her partner, kids, and animals.

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