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A future where self-driving cars roam the streets is inevitable, but it’ll take several years to get there. Some people, however, aren’t willing to wait that long.
A video posted on YouTube shows a man bypass his Tesla Model S P85D’s check-in features so the vehicle could operate without any human supervision, essentially transforming it into a self-driving car. While some may be fooled by its poorly phrased “Autopilot” feature, Teslas are not fully autonomous, making this one a very dangerous stunt.
Tesla EVs are only semi-autonomous, and they require several manual backup safety features. One of those makes sure a driver puts their hands on the wheel every two minutes. However, according to the man who uploaded the video, the feature that’s designed to keep him alive is “obnoxious” and “aggressive.” So he overrode it by wedging an orange in his steering wheel.
Suffice to say, Tesla owners, do not try this at home. The check-in feature is a safety feature and uses pressure sensors in the wheel to determine whether a driver is physically controlling the car. If the sensors can’t detect pressure after two minutes, the car sends out a warning until the driver puts their hands back on the wheel. With the orange in place, the man who uploaded the video could trick the pressure sensors into thinking he was driving, and ultimately sit back, relax, and not have to manually operate his expensive sports car.
It’s another testament to the trust Tesla owners have in their electric vehicles—and an eerie reminder of what led to the first Tesla Autopilot death. According to an investigation of the first fatal crash in a self-driving car, former Navy SEAL Joshua Brown, 40, ignored multiple warnings from the Autopilot system to put his hands back on the wheel. In May 2014, Brown, an avid Tesla fan, crashed into a semi-truck in Florida.
Human error or not, the recently uploaded video proves how easy it is to fool self-driving technology, even in what some consider to be the most advanced vehicle on the road. It’s these sorts of revelations that will be part of the growing pains toward bringing autonomy into the mainstream.
Tesla told Gizmodo Australia that drivers should always keep their hands on the wheel when “Autosteer” is engaged. It did not mention any future updates for making its car impervious to citrus fruit.
“As per the information provided in car when turning Autosteer on, we recommend hands are placed on the steering wheel at all times when in use. Autopilot is an advanced driver assistance feature and should be used correctly for the driver’s safety and the safety of others.”
Phillip Tracy is a former technology staff writer at the Daily Dot. He's an expert on smartphones, social media trends, and gadgets. He previously reported on IoT and telecom for RCR Wireless News and contributed to NewBay Media magazine. He now writes for Laptop magazine.