A Tesla Model S that was cruising at highway speeds rammed into the back of a parked fire truck on a freeway in Culver City, CA in late January. The man behind the wheel claimed his car was running on Tesla’s TSLA, -1.71% enhanced autopilot system. But shouldn’t he still have seen, and stopped for, the red engine up ahead?
The crash highlights a tension in the race toward self-driving car technology. When cars start doing the work, drivers overestimate the capabilities of their cars and disengage entirely. Advocates and lawmakers are calling on car companies to educate drivers about what their cars will – and won’t do.
“We are at the beginning of a brave new world, at the advent of innovative technologies in autonomous vehicles,” said Joan Claybrook, a former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
A car’s autonomy is rated on a six-step scale, from Level 0, a normal car, to Level 5, where drivers will enter a destination and sit back for the ride.