Dangerously trending: Tesla driverless videos on social media | Voice of America

NEW YORK – It was a boozy ride captured for TikTok with a soundtrack provided by Justin Bieber and with a Tesla serving as “designated driver” for the night.

In the short video, three young men are shown dancing in their seats, beers nearby, as the vehicle moves on the highway near other cars at 105 km / h, as shown on the speedometer. speed.

No one is behind the wheel.

The music video, which has been “liked” by nearly 2 million people and shared 105,000 times, is just one of many similar social media clips AFP has reviewed.

Such behavior is illegal and ignores the instructions of the automaker, which states on its website that Tesla’s driver assistance system is “intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel. and is ready to take over at any time. “

In addition to Tesla’s “Autopilot” system, which matches a vehicle’s speed to that of surrounding traffic and helps steer in a clearly marked lane, Tesla offers what it calls “full autonomous driving capability”.

The capabilities of this program include assisting in parking a car, getting a vehicle in and out of a tight parking space, and guiding a car from a ramp to an exit ramp.

Tesla will alert the driver and ultimately deactivate the autonomous driving system if the driver’s seat belt is not fastened or the driver’s hands are not detected on the steering wheel.

Trick the system

However, these protections have proven unsuitable for Tesla motorists determined to abuse their vehicles. The magazine Consumer reports posted a video in which an incredulous tester easily tricked a Tesla into driving with no one behind the wheel.

“Idiots will be idiots, they will find a way to cheat the system and it’s not Tesla’s fault, they can put a bunch of other things in here, people will just beat him,” a poster said. calling it “Dirty Tesla” in a video on his YouTube page, which has 55,000 subscribers.

(“Dirty Tesla” described himself as the president of a Tesla owners club in Michigan but declined to give his name.)

But Tesla himself has been less than clear, forcing users to follow the rules even as he employs confusing terminology for his driver assistance programs, and as his boss, Elon Musk, makes statements. radicals on technology.

Musk predicted earlier this year that the company’s vehicles would achieve Level 5 range, or fully autonomous driving, by 2021. Yet in 2015, the billionaire said that goal would be achieved within two years.

“Some companies pay more attention than others to the way they advertise,” said Andrew Kun, an expert in human-machine interactions at the University of New Hampshire.

“The problem is overconfidence, in thinking that the system can do more than it really can,” Kun said. “Of course, that’s the problem with calling it ‘Autopilot’ when it really isn’t.”

Fatal accidents

Adding seriousness to the matter, a series of fatal crashes has raised suspicions that Tesla’s technology may have been misused.

On April 17, two people were killed near Houston after a Tesla crashed into a tree.

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board did not indicate whether anyone was driving. Local police said no one was in the driver’s seat.

In a fatal accident in May near Los Angeles, also under investigation, the driver posted images of himself driving his Tesla without his hands on the wheel on social media.

Despite billions of dollars spent so far, automakers have yet to produce a fully self-sufficient vehicle.

Tesla’s system has reached Society of Automotive Engineers-wide level 2 of range, still a long way from full range and requiring a person in the driver’s seat who can take control if needed.

California regulators have said they are examining whether Tesla’s marketing is misleading consumers – in particular, if it violated a regulation that “prohibits a company from advertising vehicles for sale or lease as autonomous unless the vehicle meets the legal and regulatory definition of an autonomous vehicle, ”the Department of Motor Vehicles told AFP.

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