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It’s not technology, but humans that may not be ready for self-driving cars

Lucas Mearian | July 7, 2016
Tesla Autopilot 2.0 is expected later this year.

So, instead of taking the wheel from drivers' hands, as a fully autonomous vehicle would do, Pratt said automakers are more focused on ADAS now and will be for many years to come. Tesla, however, has stated that it will have a fully autonomous vehicle ready by 2018.

Tesla is not alone. Nearly every major car maker has announced plans for fully autonomous vehicles in the future. For example, BMW just announced it plans to produce a fully autonomous car called iNEXT, suited for both city streets and highways, by 2021.

Arguably, however, Tesla has pushed the envelope on ADAS further than any other vehicle currently available, a strategy that Musk defended in the company's blog.

Musk referred to Brown's accident as the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles driven in Tesla vehicles where Autopilot was activated. Musk compared that statistic to the roughly one fatality for every 60 million miles driven globally. By Musk's accounting, Autopilot is at "the very least" 50% safer than vehicles not using it.

While Autopilot may make vehicle's safer, it is also a false security blanket. Humans will be human and will test the limits of technology, even placing themselves and others in harm's way to do it.

Perhaps ADAS needs one more advancement: a touch-sensitive steering wheel that ensures drivers keep their hands where they're supposed to be at all times. Or perhaps an inward facing camera could be used to determine if a driver is involved in an activity that's unsafe, and the car could automatically pull to the shoulder of a road then forcing the driver to reset the vehicle before continuing to drive.

In one fashion or another, safety advancements should be put in place to ensure drivers are unable to abuse ADAS while at the same time allowing humans ultimately to maintain control over their vehicles.

 

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