Electric vehicle maker Tesla’s partially automated car system can now identify traffic signals and respond accordingly. The company is rolling out a new feature for its partially automated driving system which is designed to spot stop signs and traffic signals.
The latest update takes the company a step closer to its aim of converting cars into fully self-driving vehicles by the end of this year.
But this latest development is contradictory to recommendations from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board that include limiting where Tesla’s Autopilot driving system can operate because it has failed to spot and react to hazards in at least three fatal crashes.
In a note sent to a group of Tesla owners who were picked to test the stoplight and sign recognition feature, the company said it can be used with the Traffic-Aware Cruise Control or Autosteer systems.
The company claims that after the new feature Tesla cars can now detect traffic lights, including those that are green or blinking yellow. It will notify the driver of its intent to slow down and stop, and drivers must push down the gear selector and press the accelerator pedal to confirm that it’s safe to proceed.
However, the driver has to be attentive enough as he has to be ready to take immediate action including braking because this feature may not stop at all traffic signals.
There no specific details about the system or the fleet. But the website Electrek.co reported last week that the new feature is being sent to the wider Tesla fleet as part of an over-the-internet software update for thousands of vehicles. The feature won’t come until later in other parts of the world, the website said.
On the other hand, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the US government’s road safety agency, on Monday said that the agency will closely monitor the performance of this technology.
It further added that it is important that the driver is ready enough to act when needed as law enforcement agencies will hold them responsible.
But, as per Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit watchdog group, Tesla drivers have a history over-relying on the company’s electronics.
He said Tesla is using the feature to sell cars and get media attention, even though it might not work. Unfortunately, we’ll find out the hard way.
Whenever one of its vehicles using Autopilot is involved in a crash, Tesla points to legalese warning drivers that they have to pay attention, Levine said.