De huidige Autpilot (Advanced Driver Assistance System, of ADAS) gebruikt camera's en een radar. Experts zeggen dat Tesla beter het gevanceerdere LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) kan gebruiken. Met lasers worden dan driedimensionale scans van objecten om een voertuig heen gemaakt. Maar is het gebruik daarvan wel haalbaar?
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Currently, Tesla's radar only ranges the distance to objects, but it cannot necessarily determine that those objects are. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said he doesn't think his all-electric vehicles need LiDAR, and argues that passive forward-looking radar can accomplish ADAS functions. "I think that completely solves it without the use of LIDAR. I'm not a big fan of LIDAR, I don't think it makes sense in this context," Musk said last year.
More recently, there has been speculation that Tesla is at least considering adding LiDAR at some point. But, more may be needed.
Richard Wallace, the director of the Transportation Systems Analysis group at the Center for Automotive Research, said if Tesla vehicles were equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications technology, the recent spat of accidents would likely have been avoided.
Wallace believes that autonomous vehicles won't be entirely safe until they can communicate with other vehicles on the roads as well as the infrastructure around them. "People argue...'I developed a fully self-driving vehicle based purely on sensors and artificial intelligence and I don't need V2V and V2I technology,' " Wallace said. "V2V would have stopped this...fatal crash."
For the past two weeks, Tesla has been at the heart of a media feeding frenzy since it revealed that an owner of one of its Model S sedans was killed back in May while the Autopilot feature was engaged. That accident was followed by two others allegedly involving Autopilot. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating Tesla over the incidents.
Last week, the NHTSA requested additional data from Tesla regarding Autopilot, including any design changes and updates to the system, as well as detailed logs of when the system has prompted drivers to take over steering.
Today, Consumer Reports, whose past reviews showered Tesla's all-electric vehicles with praise, called on the all-electric carmaker to disable its semi-autonomous driving system in light of the accidents.
"By marketing their feature as 'Autopilot,' Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security," Laura MacCleery, vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports, said in a blog. "Consumers should never be guinea pigs for vehicle safety 'beta' programs." Wallace agreed that Autopilot misrepresents what the technology offers. "It's driver assistance at this point," Wallace said.
Autopilot has been described by Tesla as a public beta program that's intended to assist and not fully take over the task of driving. Data from the beta program is transmitted back to Tesla, allowing the company to improve the technology.
Musk said Tesla had no plans to disable Autopilot, ardently defended it, and reiterated that the company plans to blog about how to properly and safely use it. "This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated. Among all vehicles in the U.S., there is a fatality every 94 million miles. Worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles," Musk said in a blog.