Tesla Autopilot is now programmed to break the law

tesla on road
© Tesla going very fast

One reason that self-driving cars (or autonomous vehicles) are an attractive concept to many is that they will follow the rules, you know, things like stopping at red lights and respecting the speed limits.

Except rules of the road can be so inconvenient. In December, Tesla sent out an update that limited the speed of its cars driving under autopilot to the speed limit. Owners were outraged, and now the company has back-tracked. A new software update allows the car to go 5MPH over the speed limit on non-divided roads, and on divided highways, up to 90 MPH no matter what the set speed limit is. According to the Guardian,


Tesla owners, many of whom had expressed irritation at the original limiter, responded to Musk’s confirmation of the change with glee. “Yay! I can keep my car!,” wrote one. “Looks like owner outrage and certain well known people tweeting Tesla does in fact get results,” said another owner on Reddit.

Tesla justifies this because it claims that it is not really a self-driving car;

Tesla vehicles are constantly evolving in their capabilities and features sets. With the current feature set, Tesla Autopilot is classified as Level 2 automated system. Until full autonomy is reached, the driver is responsible for and must remain in control of their car at all times.

So it is theoretically the driver’s responsibility to obey the speed limit, not the car’s. (that's what all the Tesla defenders are saying, anyway) But that is being disingenuous; we have seen how drivers are treating this as a self-driving car. It is the intent that it eventually be truly a self-driving car.


One can certainly see the drivers point of view in complaining; nobody drives the speed limit, which is often far lower than the design speed of the road and the capability of the car. I can imagine that sitting in a fast powerful Tesla going 60 when everyone is flying around you at 75 is no fun at all, particularly since the drivers cannot do all the fun stuff that they might be doing in a truly autonomous car.

On the other hand, it is so early in the game, cars are barely at the self-crawling stage, and they are already being programmed to break the law. This will not end well.

Tags: Self-driving car | Tesla Motors

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