TECH: Self-Parking is Latest Autonomous Fail

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Tesla Parking Fail

Your new car will probably come with autonomous features. Even if it won’t drive itself like a Tesla Model S, there are plenty of other thing that cars will do by themselves. They can stop if you’re not paying attention and are about to hit something, slow down or speed up when cruise control is engaged, and they can find parking spaces and park. They do all these nifty things, but in every case, the driver is still ultimately in control and needs to pay attention, even if it’s something as simple as parking.

Self-parking has been around a few years now and you’ll find the technology in plenty of cars. If you’ve never been behind the wheel of a car when it performs this feat, then you’ll be a little freaked out the first time you give it a go. It generally starts by pressing a button to let the car know you’re looking for a parking spot.

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Once the car finds a spot where it thinks it will fit, then it takes control of the wheel while you manage the brakes, gas, and shifting. Note that you still have to do stuff, just not the hard part of navigating your way into a parallel parking spot while traffic piles up behind you. If at anytime you think the car is making a mistake, then you can take back control and do the job the old fashioned way.

That last bit is the key with all autonomous tech these days. You are the one who is in control even when the car is autonomously doing its thing. One Tesla Model S owner proved this point when his car tried to parallel park. The self-parking feature let his car hit the truck in front of the space before he took back control. It doesn’t matter if you’re using cruise control or autopilot or self-parking, these cars still need attentive drivers.

It’s not just a Tesla issue either, although they seem to be the one making the news lately for autonomous technology issues. I’ve experienced problems with other automakers, particularly with self-parking. I had to hit the brakes when a Toyota was bound and determined to back into a parking space that was already occupied by a motorcycle. Twice.

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Autonomous technology is far from perfect, which is why a driver is still required at all times. That driver is also supposed to be paying attention, not reading a book or napping or completely zoning out behind the wheel. When will this change? Who knows, but in the meantime, if it looks like your autonomous car is making a mistake, then it’s time for you to take over and drive.

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Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin