A US senator asked Tesla to deactivate Autopilot and pressured the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to go after the automaker over its safety claims and nag defeat tricks.
Tesla requires drivers to hold the steering wheel and be ready to take control at all times when using its Autopilot features.
It tries to enforce this with “alerts” that ask drivers to “apply pressure to the steering wheel,” and if the driver doesn’t respond to these alerts, also known as “nag” in the Tesla community, the automaker eventually attempts to safely stop the vehicle.
Ever since releasing Autopilot, Tesla has been increasing those alerts when using Autopilot in an attempt to try to reduce misuse of the driver assist system.
The move is not welcomed by all Tesla drivers, and some of them have been looking at ways to get around it.
It can be as simple as attaching any kind of object with some weight to the steering wheel.
During a senate hearing regarding self-driving vehicles, US Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) went after Tesla for what he believes to be a dangerous situation they are creating.
Here’s a video of his speech today:
Markey went so far to request that Tesla deactivate its Autopilot features:
Tesla should disable Autopilot until it fixes the problem.
The senator claims that anyone can “go to YouTube” and learn how to defeat Autopilot nag with a water bottle:
That’s not safe. Somebody is going to die because they can go to YouTube as a driver — find a way to [get around safety requirements]. We can’t entrust the lives of our drivers and everyone else on the road to a water bottle.
He asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to look into the issue, and NHTSA chief James Owens said that it will contact Tesla about the situation.
NHTSA actually already acted on the issue when a product meant to defeat Autopilot nag went on sale. They ended up sending them a cease and desist.
It’s easier to send a cease and desist to the manufacturer of a specific product meant to beat Autopilot nag than to thousands of manufacturers of water bottles.
Tesla’s way to enforce hands-on wheels and attention when driving on Autopilot is far from ideal.
It would definitely be better to use a vision-based driver monitoring system, but it’s the best Tesla has right now, and it’s clear that if used correctly, Autopilot is safer, so it makes no sense to penalize people who are using the system correctly because some people are irresponsible.
Also, it’s not like there are not plenty of non-Autopilot ways to use a car irresponsibly.
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