It has almost been a year since the company first announced the public beta release of its driverless car update along with the warning that drivers should still “exercise caution” and keep their hands on the steering wheel. Despite the optimism of the initial release, the feature wasn’t without its controversies.
In May, a fatal collision in Florida, attributed to the Autopilot sensor not differentiating between a tractor trailer and a brightly-lit sky, spurred an investigation from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In August, another Model S crashed in autopilot mode with no serious injuries; this time, the car hit the side of a vehicle parked half off the road while the driver’s hands were not on the steering wheel.
Tesla’s Autopilot has also been criticized by Consumer Reports, who stated that the feature is “too much, too soon,” and that its name and marketing can “create potential for driver confusion” when using software still deemed to be a beta test version.
Tesla isn’t the only company exploring autonomous vehicles. Uber and Google (whose vehicles have driven 1.84 million miles in autonomous mode) are also exploring the technology, but the market for such vehicles is still in its infancy. It will be interesting to see how Tesla and the other companies learn from these accidents and adjust the software accordingly over the coming months and years.