According to CEO Elon Musk, the Tesla Model S Autopilot will be available for download sometime this summer. The radical new feature will not require any additional hardware upgrade. And best of all, enabling autopilot will allow a vehicle to drive autonomously along highway roads, change lanes or come to a complete stop as needed.
Musk recently suggested that the Tesla Model S Autopilot is the first step toward full autonomy, a reality he predicts will be achieved technically within five or six years. Unfortunately, he believes legislators and regulators will slow the transition by an additional couple of years, meaning autonomous vehicles are at least six to eight years away at the earliest.
Is the Tesla Model S Autopilot legal?
Many have pointed out that Tesla’s Autopilot may in fact be illegal, but Elon Musk already addressed these concerns last year. The most important aspect of legality, he says, revolves around the difference between full autonomy and a simple autopilot feature. It’s not all that different from an aircraft’s autopilot. Even though the craft is capable of performing many maneuvers on its own, it does so under the direct supervision of a human pilot. Should the pilot fail to adequately supervise, then the liability for failing to do so falls squarely on his or her shoulders.
As far as Tesla’s vehicles are concerned the legal consequences are very simple: if you’re in the driver’s seat, then you’re at fault in the event of an accident. Musk stated that the company will be abundantly clear on this point. We can only imagine that legal entities and auto insurance companies will agree. After all, the driver is the easiest target.
Although safety is the responsibility of the driver, Musk is quick to point out that the autonomous features of Tesla vehicles are still developed with safety in mind, and will automatically brake if obstructions appear.
If you’d like to see the Tesla Model S Autopilot in action, check out the following video. The fun part begins at about 1:40.