One of the most troubling controversies surrounding Tesla right now is the company’s Enhanced Autopilot feature that is an advanced driver-assistance system used for lane centering, adaptive cruise control, self-parking, and the ability to automatically change lanes without requiring driver steering. The Enhanced Autopilot is embedded into every vehicle and sold to the public as an extra feature, which includes eight surround cameras and twelve ultrasonic sensors, in addition to the front facing radar with artificial intelligence to make autonomous commuting possible.
Critics and notorious short sellers of the company have pointed out that at the Model 3 handover event, Elon Musk essentially said drivers could “sleep” while the Enhanced Autopilot feature was engaged — and as of recent, that is indeed not the case as fatal Autopilot crashes continue to pile up.
According to Reuters, a consumer advocacy group on Friday sounded the alarm about the automaker’s “flaws” in the Enhanced Autopilot feature after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Walter Huang, 38, the driver of the March 23 Tesla Model X crash in Mountain View using Autopilot, “had been given two visual alerts and one auditory alert to place his hands on the steering wheel during the trip.” However, those alerts were triggered 15 minutes before his tragic death as the Autopilot accelerated before the vehicle slammed into a highway barrier.
Amid the controversy over the safety of Tesla Autopilot and the numerous highly publicized fatal crashes involving the advanced driver-assistance system, a Tesla employee was allegedly caught on video asleep at the wheel of a Model S mobile service vehicle engaged in Autopilot. The incident occurred on a major highway, near the company’s factory in Fremont, California.
Tesla Autopilot is a level 2 advanced driver-assistance system, and the driver is responsible for staying alert because of the Autopilot’s ability to pass full control back to the driver. The automaker explicitly states this in the user manual.
But in today’s modern society, who reads manuals?
There have been numerous videos posted on social media platforms of vehicle owners asleep at the wheel, except this is the very first video showing a Tesla employee abusing the company’s policy while operating Autopilot.
YouTube user Mike Cagulada posted the video Thursday that recorded the dangerous event on June 04. The video says that the employee is sleeping but there’s no firm proof that this is the case. The employee could be experiencing a medical emergency or could be unconscious — what is known, is that the operator of the vehicle had their head pointed to the floor of the vehicle while the car drove itself.
CNET sent the video to Tesla for a comment on the situation and a spokesperson replied via text message: “We take safety very seriously and are investigating this incident.”
While this is not a good look for the automaker amid the recent fatal Autopilot accidents, how many more deaths have to be attributed to Autopilot “flaws” until the NTSB severely penalizes Tesla?