Matthew BeedhamEditor, SHIFT by TNW
Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls. Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls.
A couple of months ago, Tesla upgraded its driver aid system to recognize and react to stop signs and traffic lights — at least that’s what was supposed to happen. Instead, it seems the tech has been confusing fast-food takeaway logos for road signs.
If a campaign from Burger King is to be believed (more on that later), an Autopilot-equipped Tesla confused its billboard for a stop sign, and began slowing the car down. It appears the car knows when its driver needs some, uh, fuel in the same way it does itself.
Is it a bug? Or is it a feature? You decide.
Oh, and of course, Burger King turned this into a potentially irresponsible ad campaign, check out the video below for what supposedly happened.
Sure, it’s kinda funny that a Tesla is reacting in this way, but what’s actually going on here highlights how dangerous this system could be. There have been numerous reports of similar instances where Teslas got confused and started slowing down unexpectedly.
[Read: Study: Tesla likely the US’ worst carmaker for reliability and build quality]
In the feature’s release notes, Tesla says the functionality might be a bit iffy until the system learns to properly differentiate between actual stop signs and things that just kinda look like them. As with a few other Autopilot features, stop sign recognition is in beta, and users must accept a warning disclaimer before enabling it.
Indeed, it doesn’t take much to trick Autopilot. Researchers from an Israeli university managed to dangerously fool a Tesla Autopilot system into making the car accelerate above the speed limit using drones and 2D image projectors.
As part of the campaign, Burger King is handing out free Whoppers to those that can document their Tesla slowing down at one of its restaurants as a result of this Autopilot “bug.” The burger joint is then asking drivers to share it on social media.
What Burger King is really asking you to do is: take your hands off the steering wheel and use your phone whilst driving, which is illegal in most countries. For the last time, when driving using Autopilot, you must have your hands on the steering wheel and be in control of the vehicle!
Honestly, it’s stupid and irresponsible. The only way this would pass is if the passenger videos the situation. But even then, the offer only seems to be for one burger, so someone is going to have to pay.
At risk of sounding like my father, I’m going to say it anyway: I know Teslas are cool, but come on, just drive responsibly.
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