The year was 2003 when General Motors came out with their first electric vehicle idea called the EV1 which had a very short life and was considered unfit for sustaining in those times. Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, two engineers named Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning were working together to make green mobility a success and so they ended up founding Tesla Motors.
Over the years, Tesla has made constant strides and have made constant developments to not just make their products more desirable, but have focused on ‘im[roving’ them as well. This gradual improvement was noticed by the public when the company revealed a few of their models but it gained more traction when the 2021 Tesla Model Y, an SUV with “falcon-wing doors” that was, honestly, beautiful to look at was teased.
It was one of the earliest start-ups where Elon Musk invested in their idea. When he sensed that his money was going in vain, he took up the spot of being the CEO, did a good study on why their plan did not work, and chalked out an ace plan that had the potential to change the game and turn the tables.
Tesla and their masterplan
As soon as Elon Musk became the acting CEO of the California-based company, they planned to research lithium-ion batteries that performed better than those in the EV1. Another important area of research was to find a way and make the batteries as compact as possible.
Later on, the concept of battery-pack was introduced in their cars and the engineers solved a major issue by fitting them batteries into the chassis itself in a very effective way. This became the base of their architecture for most of the Tesla models.
Tesla then worked upon getting the best range from the battery while simultaneously developing electric motors that would be highly competitive and provide great performance. These motors powered each wheel on the car and boom! A modern, fast, and dynamic electric car was a success.
However, Musk was not satisfied and wanted to grab as much attention as he could. Having said that, the company announced that their cars will be “partially autonomous”. This news spread like fire until recently, when Tesla announced “Autopilot” and “Full-Self Driving” to be available in some of their vehicles.
Though this idea would make life easier for all of humankind, it could also be equally disastrous if things went south. And that just happened which has been a new challenge for the ever-growing company for a couple of years now.
The chaos of Autopilot and full Self-Driving
Autopilot might surely be a great technology with all of those cameras and radar sensors constantly feeding a central computer that operates the vehicle but it still seems like an amateur in front of the coordination of the human body and its brain. This technology will only be safer to use after proper testing and severe scrutinization.
Full Self-Driving is a similar package promising automated driving is also provided on many Tesla models for an extra $10,000. Though no serious issues have been noticed with this system yet in its beta version, it still raises multiple doubts and questions.
Having said that, there have been as many as 23 cases where the owners of a Tesla who experienced a crash were suspected to be using the Autopilot feature or might have been using it. This computer-based tech has cost the lives of a few innocent people while some of them are left with a permanent scar for the rest of their lives.
Tesla’s ignorance, silence, and unspoken defense
Instigated by these unnatural events, a spike in reporting of these automated-driving systems was noticed whereas the public made use of the media questioning the responsible authorities of the company. However, to all of this unseen risk, Tesla thought that it was better to remain calm about it.
The company which gets constant feeds from its cars did not release any specific information about the true cause of these crashes while in a few cases, the police are quite sure that Autopilot was turned on due to which the accident occurred.
While matters got serious and more fingers were being pointed toward the company, the reputation of Tesla was once again, in danger. This situation was tackled by the company as it claimed that their cars were very safe according to a survey that showed fewer Teslas involved in car crashes per mile driven whereas those on Autopilot were even fewer.
Moreover, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also backed up Tesla by concluding that those involved in these Autopilot crashes took their hands way off of the steering wheel or were not looking at the road which would have caused them in the first place. This could also be a possibility as the names ‘Autopilot’ and ‘Full Self-Driving’ can be interpreted differently by different people, most of them taking it in the wrong way.
NHTSA and its thoughts
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration played a major role because, after all, safety is what they look at. The organization did not find any fault when it was testing the Autopilot because they understood that this was nothing but just another driver-assistance system.
And while it was certainly true, the name was misinterpreted by many of its buyers that led them into doing stuff that the car is incapable of doing.
This organization with a few others investigating a 2016 fatal crash that occurred in Florida came to a conclusion that quoted “the camera and radar systems could not detect a white semi-trailer against the bright sky in the background and so, continued to cruise at the same speed, although the driver was alerted.”
Having said that, the chairman of NTSB criticized the work of NHTSA and commented that the scrutiny of this feature from Tesla should have been heavily scrutinized. Because of these events, the California-based EV-maker and its products are now harshly scrutinized and monitored at multiple levels.
Tesla and their response
While Tesla did not publicly accept the incompetence of the Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, according to a letter dated in November of 2020, written to California’s Department of Motor Vehicles that was recently made public mentions a company lawyer who acknowledged that both of these systems struggled to gain control over the car in a wide variety of driving situations and should not be considered as fully autonomous driving systems.
Adding to this, Tesla’s associate general counsel, Eric C. Williams mentioned a few obstacles that the systems do not react to which included static objects, road debris, emergency vehicles, construction zones, adverse weather, intersections that include multiple incoming ways, and unmapped roads.
Hence, Autopilot and full Self-Driving might sound futuristic and something all of us want soon to happen but there is still time to fully develop this technology to be put into daily-usable cars.
With marvelous brains working together at Tesla, this will surely happen soon but if the company faces constant criticism in the form of such instances, it might also take a few more decades to achieve the dream of self-driving cars.
While Tesla must’ve provided enough material that made its buyer’s aware particularly about these systems, their names paint a very different approach and some people try things out without even getting fully educated about the vehicle which results in some unfortunate and unexpected casualties.
Though Tesla’s intentions have always been good, their marketing department was way too ambitious and did gain an unfair profit for the company based on these two so-called “self-driving” systems that are nothing but driver-assistance features that other automakers also provide. This can be a good example for millions of start-ups around the world of how marketing and advertising could go wrong.