Fully autonomous vehicles are still off somewhere in the future, but there is plenty of autonomous tech already in today’s cars. It does everything from helping keep you in you lane if you drift to completely stopping your car to avoid a crash. Tesla’s Autopilot technology passed a major milestone with customers logging one billion miles with the feature engaged.
Regardless of what automakers and the tech types say cars can do today, there is only so much they’re allowed to do by law. Testing on public roads still requires a human driver with pedals and a steering wheel just in case something goes wrong.
In production cars, the various systems all still need a driver who is actively paying attention to the road. Those drivers also need to keep their hands on the wheel. When a car figures out your hands aren’t on the wheel, it lets you know.
Tesla’s Autopilot is one of the more advanced systems available, but even Autopilot requires an attentive human. That’s okay, because Tesla’s engineers are learning from every mile driven with Autopilot so they can make the system better and more advanced.
Human drivers don’t start off as particularly good drivers. Think about the average teenager. They learn with an experienced driver in the car before we set them out there on their own. Then, it’s purely a matter of experience. The more miles they drive, the better they get. Autopilot is a teenager who has managed to log a billion miles.
As of today Tesla owners have driven 1 billion (!) miles with Autopilot engaged pic.twitter.com/16jMYrAZ7u
— Tesla (@Tesla) November 28, 2018
There have been a few bumps along the way, in part due to how people are using the technology. Despite the name, which implies it does it all, Autopilot requires a human at the wheel to take over if needed. It is also designed to be used in specific conditions. If either of those things doesn’t happen, then there’s a chance the system won’t perform as intended.
It’s as much of a learning experience for drivers as it is for the software. People need to be aware of the limitations of the technology. More importantly, once they understand how Autopilot and other autonomous systems are designed to operate, they need to use them correctly rather than ignoring the guidelines.
One billion miles is quite a number. The software and the people it’s designed to help are figuring it out along the way.