The promise of self-driving vehicles is that someday they won’t need a driver. Instead of having to chug coffee to stay awake on that road trip or roll the windows down to get some fresh air, self-driving cars will be fine with you simply closing your eyes and taking a nap. The keyword in all that is “someday.”
There are various forms of self-driving tech on the road in today’s production cars. Cadillac has Super Cruise, Nissan has ProPilot Assist, and Tesla has Autopilot, just to name a few. The thing these technologies all have in common is that they still require a driver at the wheel.
Although these self-driving cars can manage a lot of the work that humans do, they still require humans. Sure, they can slow down and speed up with traffic, handle turns, and even change lanes all on their own, but they’re not yet ready to do it completely unsupervised.
All of these systems require a human at the wheel in case something goes wrong and there’s a lot that can go wrong. We’re not talking about catastrophic system failures, but rather everyday situations that can stymie technology.
Anyone who lives where it snows has probably experienced what happens during a snowstorm. The snow and ice gradually builds up and, depending on how bad it gets, various cameras and sensors are blocked enough that some systems won’t work. The car will warn you if that happens, but if you’re asleep when something goes wrong, then you won’t even know there’s a problem.
It could be even more commonplace. We once had a leaf blow up and stick directly over a sensor on a rainy day. It took pacing around the whole car looking for the issue before we realized it was out of a commission for a simple leaf. Mud can do the same thing.
These systems also have to be able to see the road. If the painted lines aren’t clearly visible, break-up, or even disappear, then your self-driving technology is in trouble. This is early stage technology and it needs a driver at the wheel who is awake and paying attention in case the systems can’t function.
The reason for this reminder is yet another video of someone not paying attention.
Some guy literally asleep at the wheel on the Mass Pike (great place for it).
Teslas are sick, I guess? pic.twitter.com/ARSpj1rbVn
— Dakota Randall (@DakRandall) September 8, 2019
Taken on the Mass Pike, which is a busy road no matter the time of day, it shows both driver and passenger completely asleep at the wheel of a Tesla Model X. Don’t be this guy.
One day, you may be able to nap while your car drives, but for now, take a break if you’re tired because you need to be in charge of your car at all times.