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Tesla Will Tweak Autopilot to Reduce Crashes, Liability, Bad Press: Report

Instrument panel with Vojta driving the Tesla Model S 85D, Image: © 2016 David Marek/The Truth About Cars

Earlier this summer, headlines flew fast and furious around Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot driving system, and the often hazy crashes associated with it.

Now, the electric automaker plans to tweak the system to cut down on driver misuse, according to a report in Elektrek.

The May crash that put Tesla’s technology under a microscope was billed as the first fatal accident involving a self-driving car. In the wake of Joshua Brown’s death in a Tesla Model S — a crash attributed in part to the Autopilot’s failure to recognize a tractor-trailer — other crashes cropped up, many of them the result of bad driving, or failure to understand the system.

The incidents compelled the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Transportation Safety Board, and a U.S. Senate safety committee to launch investigations into the technology. Several groups called on Tesla to shelve its technology until it becomes fool-proof. In response, Tesla hopes to people-proof its Autopilot.

Elektrek claims that the automaker will add safety features to the system to avoid a repeat of those earlier incidents. Essentially, the updates will prevent drivers from accessing certain features if the vehicle thinks they’re not following the rules.

All Autopilot-equipped Teslas periodically harass their owners, reminding them to keep their hands on the wheel when Autopilot is engaged. Ignore multiple warnings, and the vehicle aborts shuts down Autopilot. Now, a version 8.0 software update adds a new response: not only will the vehicle shut down the Autopilot, it will also prevent the driver from re-engaging the system. At least, not until the vehicle is stopped and its transmission placed in “Park.”

Use the system correctly, and there’s no need for the software to lock you out.

The automaker hasn’t announced when it will make the upgrade available, but the publication expects its release “imminently.”

[Image: David Marek/The Truth About Cars]

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