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Intelligent Machines

Pay Attention! Tesla’s Autopilot Will Lock Out Lackadaisical Drivers

Several accidents involving Tesla’s driver-assist feature have prompted some changes.

Driver-assist functions are coming quickly these days. The 2017 Mercedes E-class has the Drive Pilot, and Nissan has released its ProPilot system in Japan.

Both have been compared to Tesla’s Autopilot, and all three promise features like tracking other cars on the road and keeping you in the lane as you drive—mainly stuff designed to make highway driving easier.

But the Tesla system, which was also the first to market, has been associated with several accidents over the last few months. Those, coupled with accounts of drivers napping and doing other unsafe things behind the wheel, have led to significant criticism about Autopilot’s safety.

Tesla now appears to be addressing those concerns by punishing drivers who don’t pay sufficient attention to the road. When drivers take their hands off the wheel for more than a few seconds, the car will chime a warning. If the warning is ignored, Autopilot will disengage. The systems from Mercedes and Nissan both do the same thing, but according to Electrek, Tesla plans to take things a step further:

According to sources familiar with the Autopilot program, Tesla will add a safety restriction that will result in not only the Autopilot disengaging after alerts are repeatedly ignored, but also blocking the driver from re-engaging the feature after it was automatically disengaged.

The driver will not be able to reactivate the Autopilot until the car is stopped and put in ‘Park.’

Attempting to improve a car’s safety features is usually a good move. But Tesla’s drivers are a unique bunch—they relish their role as guinea pigs who get to test out some of the coolest, most cutting-edge automotive technology on the market. They may not appreciate Tesla engineers reprogramming their cars to give them a time-out if they misbehave.

(Read more: Electrek, The Drive, Bloomberg, “Tesla May Replace Autopilot’s Eyes with Something Far More Advanced,” “Nissan ProPilot Joins a Bumpy Road for Autonomous Driving Aids”)

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