Earlier this year, the agency sent a letter to Tesla to clarify the autonomous features of the Autopilot update and state officials even met with the company the day before the release (Oct. 14) according to the San Jose Mercury News. Yet the DMV still appears to be confused about the workings of Tesla’s Autopilot… Here’s a direct quote from the article:
To discourage drivers from relying too heavily on its imperfect technology, Tesla’s Autopilot is supposed to beep after about 10 seconds of hands-free driving to nudge drivers to grab the wheel again, and after being ignored it can sound louder warnings and turn the radio off.
“We were very comfortable with what they’re doing,” Gonzalez said. “We didn’t tell them to do the 10-second thing, but that’s why they did the 10-second thing. They also are saying the driver needs to be in control. They’re not ready to say, ‘Hey, let’s sit back and relax.’ “
But this is simply not the case. In the version of the Autopilot we tested prior to the release and in the current version, based on comments from several Model S owners we talked to (including one in California), the Autopilot does not incorporate any time-based alert and certainly not a “10-second” one.
Both the DMV and the Mercury News seem to be confused about that.
The Autopilot does send alerts to the driver, but based on the system’s ability to steer the vehicle which is dependent on the set of data the camera, radar and sensors are feeding to the system. Meaning that it only sends alerts if the vehicle determines that it momentarily will lose the ability to steer itself based on road conditions, lane markings etc.
Although Tesla clearly stipulate that you should keep your hands on the steering-wheel at all time, Model S owners technically can, and some are, driving hands-free using the Autopilot without receiving any alerts for miles.
We asked Tesla if they know why the DMV representative would think the Autopilot’s alerts are time-based considering they reportedly were briefed on the release, but the company didn’t respond to our inquiry.