Tesla Downplays Self-Driving Mode, And That’s A Good Thing [Opinion]

Tesla
By Sergio Monti Photography / Shutterstock

The Tesla automobile had two jobs when it was launched: First, it would finally and formally usher in the era of the electric car. No more false starts. No more wondering who killed the electric car. With the introduction of Tesla Motors, the electric car was here to stay.

The other job was to introduce the self-driving car. While this was never intended to become an immediate reality, it was the official first step toward a near-future where cars would drive themselves. Tesla has succeeded in the first goal. Thanks largely to Elon Musk, electric cars are for real. The second goal, not so much.

According to the Verge, “Tesla stopped promoting the ‘Full Self-Driving’ option for its cars.”

“Tesla has pulled a long-standing promise of a “Full Self-Driving” option for its cars from the order page on the company’s website.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, said on Twitter that the option will be temporarily available “off menu,” much like Animal Style fries at an In-N-Out burger joint. It will quickly leave the secret menu, though, and won’t come back until the company is ready to roll it out. The Full Self-Driving option was “causing too much confusion” for customers to justify keeping it front and center, he said. The company declined to comment.”

One gets the impression Musk is still not taking the matter seriously enough. This is an issue of safety. Lives are on the line, and at least one has been lost. This is not something to be compared to an item on a fast-food menu.

Car crash
  By A_Lesik / Shutterstock

Just last year, CNBC reported on a man dying in a car crash while depending on Tesla Autopilot. The article is quick to point out that the man received a number of warnings to keep his hands on the wheel, something he failed to do. But that is ultimately not the point. The man died because of confusion. He was sold a dream of a car driving itself and died because he believed it.

At the current stage of technology, it is irresponsible to sell a car with the promise of a Full Self-Driving mode, or something that currently bills itself as autopilot. Airplanes have autopilot. That is fitting because planes really can fly themselves. Cars cannot drive themselves except in very limited circumstances.

The German Government has asked Tesla to stop calling its features “Autopilot.” While that is unlikely to happen without regulation, at least Musk is being a bit more conservative about what he promises.

As a PSA, consumers need to understand that regardless of the car you own and the features it boasts, no car is even close to being able to drive itself. Licensed and attentive drivers are still a requirement.