Autopilot uses a combination of cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors to scan the vehicle’s surroundings and use this data to drive the vehicle autonomously in certain situations. Tesla is pretty excited about the functionality, stating in its Q3 earnings release:
Thousands of Autopilot-equipped Tesla vehicles are gathering over one million miles of driving data per day. We then analyze this data and feed it back to the fleet to continually improve our customers’ driving experiences. Autopilot is so advanced and unique that test drive requests from prospective customers have increased significantly since its introduction.
Autopilot is meant to be used primarily on highways where high speeds and sweeping turns are common, but that hasn’t stopped drivers from turning getting themselves into some sticky situations. Just look below for a few Model S autopilot fails:
This one is especially interesting, as the “driver” is actually sitting in the back seat with Autopilot engaged at the low, low speed of 18mph (don't try this at home):
In an effort to help keep its customers out of danger, Tesla will employ some updates to its Autopilot software to prevent stunts like this from occurring in the future. “But I do want to emphasize, we discouraged – there's been some fairly crazy videos on YouTube, we are – this is not good,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk during yesterday’s earnings call. “And we will be putting some additional constraints on when Autopilot can be activated to minimize the possibility of people doing crazy things with it.”
Where’s assuming that some of those constraint could include making use of an occupancy sensor in the driver’s seat to actually determine if someone is behind the wheel while autopilot is engaged.
Regardless of some of the the dumb things that drivers have done with autopilot, Musk contends that drivers are racking up nearly a million per day autonomously — and doing so safely. “So we're aware of many accidents that were prevented from Autopilot, and we're not aware of any that were caused by Autopilot,” Musk added. One such accident that was prevented can be viewed below: