For those ready to get their hearts racing a bit before Halloween, Tesla has made its latest “auto-pilot” software available for its electric cars. And many of the comments of the update describe the experience of driving — riding? — in the car as a bit scary.
Imagine transportation fleets that can reduce accidents caused by bad weather, or driver fatigue. In addition, poor road conditions and driver error also cause fatalities and injuries — and those challenges could be dramatically reduced by automating driving, at least partly. The fatal work injury rate for drivers is seven times the national average. According to the most recent figures from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, which were released last month, transportation incidents accounted for 40 percent of fatal workplace injuries in 2014, or 1,891 fatalities. Within the "transportation event" category, roadway incidents comprised 57 percent of the “fatal work injury” total.
For Tesla owners, Version 7 was largely available in the United States this week; it will take roughly until sometime next week for it to be downloadable globally. It’s been a long time coming; a year ago, Tesla began equipping Model S with the hardware needed for the incremental introduction of self-driving technology, including a forward radar, a forward-looking camera, 12 long-range ultrasonic sensors positioned to sense 16 feet around the car in every direction at all speeds, and a high-precision digitally-controlled electric assist braking system. This week’s Tesla Version 7.0 software release put all that Internet of Things technology into action, working in conjunction with the automated driving capabilities already available in Model S.
The Tesla blog continues:
Autopilot allows Model S to steer within a lane, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal, and manage speed by using active, traffic-aware cruise control. Digital control of motors, brakes, and steering helps avoid collisions from the front and sides, as well as preventing the car from wandering off the road. Your car can also scan for a parking space, alert you when one is available, and parallel park on command.
The blog explains that ultimately, the driver is still in control of the car. So, it will be a while before cars will allow those who were once drivers to become, instead, “nappers.” But is a mammoth step forward for IoT connectivity in the realm of transportation. While a bit spooky today, it can ultimately set the stage for safety, particularly in the trucking industry, in the years to come.