Car video reviews:

Musk Says Autopilot "Almost" Offers Level 5 Autonomy Despite Recent Backlash

No further than last week, two separate decisions - one from a German court and one from a car safety and research organization in the UK - said Tesla was misleading its customers regarding the capabilities of its Autopilot system.
What does Elon Musk do about it? Does he review the incriminated marketing material to see whether there's some truth to it? Does he admit for one second he might not be 100 percent right? No. Instead, he lays all the blame on the people who don't heed the warning saying they should be ready to take over whenever the situation requires it.

As if that wasn't bad enough, now he goes even further. During the Q2 2020 Earnings Call, Musk talked about his personal commute from home to work and how that goes about. Are you curious? Or maybe a little surprised to find out he does leave the office sleeping bag now and then for the comfort of his home bed.

“So I personally tested the latest alpha build of full self-driving software when I drive my car and it is really I think profoundly better than people realize," the Tesla CEO said. "It’s like amazing. So it’s almost getting to the point where I can go from my house to work with no interventions, despite going through construction and widely varying situations. So this is why I am very confident about full self-driving functionality being complete by the end of this year, is because I’m literally driving it.”

So, after reading this little nugget of Elon Musk's life, do you get the impression the Autopilot is a full self-driving system? Because the company's CEO sure seems to think it is. Of course, he did mention that driver supervision is mandatory later on, but that's the kind of information that goes unnoticed when placed next to the much more spectacular bit about Musk's commute.

Besides, anyone who's ever driven a car with cruise control knows just how instantly sleepy you get the moment you hit that button and take your foot off the gas. If you can take your hands off the wheel too, it's only a matter of time your eyes will leave the perimeter of the windshield.

Does that mean driving aid suites should be banned altogether? No, it means they should make more efforts to make sure they don't remain active if the driver doesn't do certain things. They have a camera facing the cabin - use that to monitor the driver's line of sight and alert them each time they take their eyes off the road for too long.

It also means there shouldn't be talk of full self-driving capabilities for a system that's already on the streets. Level 5 autonomy features should only be allowed on the street after very rigorous testing on closed roads and after the required regulations are in place. Otherwise, we get these situations where Tesla can say "we did warn them to remain attentive" and be off the hook legally while people continue to trust these vehicles that can drive by themselves "with almost no intervention" until a large white truck decides to sit across the road on a sunny day.

Tesla's alleged big advantage comes from using data gathered by all Tesla owners that drive each day with Autopilot enabled. This allowed the company to amass probably billions of real-world miles by now that get fed into the collective AI behind the entire system, helping a ton with the learning process. This made making Autopilot available early on crucial to the development of the system.

Musk insists that Level 5 autonomy will be possible by the end of the year, and while that may very well be true, it's pretty funny that he chose the example of his daily commute as an endorsement. One that's pretty vague and irrelevant. For one thing, it's a route the system's taken over and over again - even horses learned their way back home quite quickly, so it's hardly an achievement.

Then, we don't know how long or complicated the route is - he does mention "going through construction and widely varying situations," but as far as we know, those might be the few moments where the system requires driver intervention. It's not actual proof, but it's presented as such.

At the end of the day, we're supposed to take everything Musk says at face value. Take his word for it. But the Autopilot is where Musk failed to deliver the most, so that's become rather difficult. Plus, there's no getting away from the fact that he keeps making way too bold claims about the system that can give people the wrong impression. He may very well be the first to deliver Level 5 autonomy on a production vehicle - and it will be a great achievement - but the road there would have been stained by immoral practices that some people will quickly forget, but others won't.


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories