Earlier this month, Tesla founder Elon Musk announced that cars will soon be driving in “autopilot mode,” in the company’s Model S sedans as soon as this summer. In a press conference, Musk talked about the new software update as an opportunity to eliminate road anxiety for drivers, as the car will basically drive from location to another on its own.
Tesla has been testing the self-driving service in San Francisco, sometimes venturing all the way to Seattle, with the driver having little involvement in the trip whatsoever. Major roads have been programmed into the software update, suggesting that commuters using highways might actually be able to relax on their way to the office.
Now, does this mean self-driving cars are legal yet? It’s not clear, but Tesla seems ready to argue that it should be. Some states have passed laws that would allow for autonomous vehicles on the road, and a Tesla spokesperson commented recently that “nothing in our autopilot system…is in conflict with current regulations.”
What might this mean for drivers with a handicap? Will it give physically handicapped or paralyzed individuals the opportunity, perhaps even freedom, to hop in a car and go? There are handheld controls that can be installed into most vehicles for handicapped drivers, but a quick internet search doesn’t result with a clear best-choice option. With the new Tesla autopilot, there are additional safety features including automatic emergency braking, blind spot warnings, side collision warnings, and of course, the trip planner. With features that can be tailored to the driver as well as the location, this car could open doors to people who may not have otherwise driven a car.
The driver in the Model S will still need to be alert and focused on the road, according to Tesla, but may not have to have feet on the gas or hands on the wheel. As the summer draws closer, it will be interesting to see if the car maker will consider handicapped drivers as part of the official roll-out.
What’s your take on the new autopilot system? Would you use it? If you’re handicapped, what would your concerns or questions be for Elon Musk?
Tesla is an American company that designs, manufactures, and sells high-end electric cars.
Photo Credit: Maurizio Pesce, Creative Commons