On Friday, the Tesla blog announced the introduction of the Navigate feature to its Enhanced Autopilot system. Navigate will drive from exit-to-exit on the highway, and automatically change lanes to pass vehicles along the way.
Near the top of the post, Tesla writes, “until truly driverless cars are validated and approved by regulators, drivers are responsible for and must remain in control of their car at all times.”
That is a prominent disclaimer, but this feature basically looks like Level 3 partial autonomy. Depending on how aggressively Tesla requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel, it’s not hard to imagine drivers diverting their attention elsewhere.
And that could be a great thing!
Tesla could start out by requiring drivers to basically keep their hands on the wheel at all times. Over time, as the software proves itself, Tesla could use over-the-air updates to slowly relax the requirements that drivers monitor the road.
Of course, Tesla could botch the rollout and cause lots of distracted driving accidents. But so far Tesla Autopilot has a great safety record, so I feel pretty good about this.
As the blog post notes, “Since we launched Autopilot in 2015, more than 1 billion miles of real-world driving data have been used to support the feature.”