Tesla Model 3 Full Self-Driving Capability Draws Criticism After Price Down

Tesla Model 3 full driving capability under criticism after company pulling prices down to mainstream self-driving technologyPhoto By: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr

Reading the headline, one would assume that the car [Tesla Model 3] can travel from point A to point B on its own without human intervention. That’s what Tesla is marketing its Tesla Model 3.

After announcing on Thursday that they’re pulling down the prices for their new Model 3 to $35,000, Tesla offered an optional $5,000 for their “Full self-driving capability” feature that’s drawing criticism from experts on self-driving technology. 

The system will offer “automatic driving on city streets” as an update later this year, according to Tesla’s website.

Critics argue that CEO Elon Musk is loosely using terms and definitions, overselling a technology that is yet to be trusted 100%. They elaborate that this could potentially lead to safety issues.

At the moment, experts say that Tesla’s full self-driving capability is merely a driving assist feature that handles minor driving tasks such as keeping pace with other cars on a highway and still requires diligent human oversight. 

To most autonomous vehicle experts, full self-driving is defined by the complete reliance on the technology while on the road. A driver can, per se, fall asleep and the vehicle would continue on to its destination.

“Fully self-driving makes for a great headline, but there are a lot of additional questions autonomous vehicle providers need to disclose in order to properly educate the customer,” said Michael Flemming, CEO of the self-driving technology company Torc Robotics

However, a Tesla spokeswoman told CNN Business to the fine print on Tesla’s order page that tells buyers the currently enabled features require “active” driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.

The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, a group that lobbies on behalf of some of the largest companies competing in the autonomous driving space, such as Waymo, Volvo, Ford, Lyft and Uber, defines self-driving vehicles as those that don’t require a human to take control in a given area, such as a city.

In contrast, a 2018 study found that 71% of drivers believed they could purchase a self-driving car today, despite no fully autonomous vehicles being available for sale. 

Experts raise awareness on the issue of the lack of understanding of how this technology can result in more accidents. Especially with what’s currently available in the market, it may lead people to put too much trust in systems like Tesla’s that could easily be dangerous.

Dean Pomerleau, of Carnegie Mellon University, who in 1995 drove a minivan that steered itself across the country, told CNN Business he has “grave concerns” about Tesla’s practices on autonomous driving.

“Claiming its vehicles will soon be ‘feature complete’ for full self-driving is one more step in the unconscionable practices that Tesla is already engaged in with Autopilot — overselling its capabilities and reliability when marketing its vehicles and then blaming the driver for not reading the manual and paying constant attention when the technology inevitably fails,” Pomerleau said.

Experts say that part of finding a solution to the current issue is discovering an actual definition for it. Companies loosely use terms because the government has not yet given a formal meaning for self-driving vehicles.

The US Department of Transportation and Society of Automotive Engineers instead refer to a complicated five-point scale of automation. 

A “level 4” vehicle is the point on the scale where self-driving begins, meaning a car that can drive itself in a set area, such as a city, without any human intervention.

Moreover, the government needs to enforce a tighter grip with companies like Tesla who is continuously breaking new ground with technology but lacks in educating its market.

“Some agency needs to throw the book at Tesla,” said Raj Rajkumar, a member of the team that won the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, a race widely credited with kicking off the self-driving vehicle industry. “Tesla’s use of this term is totally irresponsible.”

About the Author

Sean Louis Salazar
A communications graduate writing about the latest trends and news!

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