Tesla Autopilot No Longer Breaks Speed Limit
Tesla's automatic car steering tool will now restrict the car to the local speed limit on most roads. Users had previously been able to set the system to run up to five miles over the limit.
The changes are to a feature which has the full title of Autopilot Traffic-Aware Cruise Control. It not only controls the car's speed as with normal cruise control, but automatically adjusts to keep a safe distance from surrounding vehicles and steers the car to keep in the lane. (Source: electrek.co)
Freeways an Exception to No-Speeding Policy
Once the latest update takes effect, the feature will adhere strictly to the speed limit on most roads. The only exception will be on freeways where there's a physical barrier between lanes running in opposite directions, meaning virtually no risk of hitting oncoming traffic. Here the software will still let the driver set limits of up to 90 miles per hour regardless of the legal speed limit. (Source: digitaltrends.com)
The news has fueled an ongoing debate about safety, practicality and the law. One argument goes that keeping automatic technologies within speed limits avoids encouraging or enabling dangerously fast (and illegal) driving. A counter argument goes that sometimes it safer to exceed the speed limit in order to keep up with the flow of traffic and that automated systems can't make skilled judgments about whether and when to do this.
Of course, there's nothing to stop drivers deciding to exceed the speed limit in such vehicles: they simply need to switch off the Autopilot feature and drive as normal.
Fatal Crash Sparked Rethink
The change is the latest in a series of tweaks Tesla has made to boost safety, prompted in part by a fatal crash involving a driver using the Autopilot technology in May. One was to put more emphasis on radar, rather than cameras when detecting other vehicles.
Another change was to deter drivers relying on the fact that it's physically possible to "drive" completely hands-free using the Autopilot. Drivers now get a visual and audible warning if they take their hands off the wheel for more than a minute while driving faster than 45 miles an hour. Ignoring three of these warnings inside an hour means the feature switches off until after the next time the car is parked.
What's Your Opinion?
Do you agree with Tesla's decision to stop Autopilot working above the speed limit? Is it a sensible balance to "enforce" the speed limit for Autopilot on ordinary roads while giving drivers leeway when on a freeway? Do you think the issue of which is safer, human or automated drivers, has a different answer at very fast speeds?
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