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Tesla is going to lock down Autopilot so it's harder to do stupid things with it

Tesla is going to lock down Autopilot so it's harder to do stupid things with it

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It's no secret that some Model S owners have been doing truly dumb things with their cars since Tesla rolled out autopilot — the temptation to let go of the wheel and let the car take total control is strong, even though Tesla calls it a "beta" and insists that drivers keep their hands on the wheel at all times. In an earnings call Q&A this afternoon, CEO Elon Musk acknowledged that some scary videos had made it onto the internet of autopilot making scary decisions, saying that the company is planning "some additional constraints" around when the feature can be enabled in order to "minimize the possibility of people doing crazy things with it."

He didn't detail what those constraints might be, but it's easy to imagine that Tesla could, for instance, have more rigor around insisting that hands are placed on the wheel — if hands are removed for more than a few seconds, the system could automatically disengage, as some lane-keep systems in other vehicles do today. That'd reduce the chances that an inattentive driver could get caught off-guard by the car doing something unexpected.

Musk's comments come on the heels of Google's October self-driving report, where the company laid out why it decided to work on a fully autonomous car — because drivers aren't very good at taking control of self-driving cars that need to disengage their autonomous functionality. Some Model S owners are learning that better than anyone at the moment, though there's a lot of hope that Tesla's system will get better over time: the company has noted that data from cars in the field is continuously being uploaded in order to refine its maps and algorithms.