The automated technology that was supposed to produce driverless vehicles hasn’t quite lived up to its hype — at least not yet. Another accident involving Tesla’s automated driving features illustrates some of the dangers presented by the technology.
In 2016, Tesla’s top executives announced that it expected driverless cars to be able to cross the country on their own within two short years. As it turns out, it can be a challenge just to get one to exit a garage safely.
The $65,000 Model S belonging to a North Carolina family took off its own front end and nearly took out the family’s garage when its owner relied on one of its self-driving features, called “Summon.” Despite being used at much higher speeds, the car failed to properly exit the garage when directed. It may have kept on going, damaging the garage and itself even further, if the owner hadn’t grabbed the controls and stopped the vehicle manually.
This is one more embarrassing incident in a string of embarrassing incidents for Tesla and automated driving technology in general. Those who had hoped for the “cars of the future” to be a reality by now are faced with growing evidence that the technology is still experimental and flawed.
The malfunctioning “Summon” feature of this particular model of vehicle has been an issue in previous accidents. So has its “Autopilot” feature. Tesla defends against accusations that the automated tech isn’t doing its job by saying that the technology is still in its “beta” stage — where kinks in the system are usually worked out.
Still, automated driving features need to come a long way to be truly what most Americans envisioned when they heard about driverless cars. Right now, the cars can’t detect some stationary objects, including items that are below bumper-level or very narrow, like a bike.
Being behind the wheel of a highly sophisticated piece of technology doesn’t absolve drivers of their obligation to keep their eyes on the road and their hands ready to take the wheel in the event the technology fails. When a car accident involving an automated vehicle happens, drivers are still liable for the results.