Tesla Recalls 2 Million Vehicles for Autopilot System Fix

(TargetDailyNews.com) – The robots are not taking over the highways—yet. But perhaps after Tesla fixes all the cars it just recalled for a software problem, maybe they will. What’s less clear is whether this fix will help or hinder auto safety and driver skills.

Elon Musk’s robot car company just announced that it is recalling almost every single car it has sold in the United States since 2012. The problem? Ironically, and perhaps darkly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the cars’ computerized alerts to prod drivers to pay attention are not sufficient.

Tesla disagrees with the NHTSA’s view but recalled the cars just the same. The regulatory agency investigated Tesla for two years and now says the company’s “Autosteer” and “Autopilot” features are not up to snuff. The NHSTA says the cars do not sufficiently track driver inattention and do not sufficiently prompt drivers to stay actively engaged in driving when they use the car’s automated guidance features.

Tesla will push out a software update to all car owners (even the media is now calling drivers “users,” as if they were at home on a computer). The update will give additional warnings to drivers to keep them attending to driving, and it will limit the scenarios in which the cars’ Autosteer feature can be engaged.

Tesla’s Autosteer and Autopilot features allow the cars to brake, accelerate, and move between lanes, even though the company claims the system is not a full and complete “driverless” automated system. The NHSTA says Tesla’s system allows too much driver inattention and leads to careless and inappropriate use of the automated systems in conditions that are not safe.

The software update agreement came after the official findings, which were the result of a two-year NHSTA investigation into auto crashes involving Teslas.

It is difficult to see how more software prompts can solve a problem that appears to be baked into the very idea behind an “autopilot” feature in automobiles. These features are explicitly designed to allow the driver to be less attentive, not more, and to do less driving, not more. Similar to the way commercial airline pilots have lost manual flying skills over time as jet liners become more automated, it seems likely modern automated cars will inevitably produce poorer human drivers.

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