How a Tesla car reacts if you fall asleep at the wheel

The owner of a Tesla Model S was rescued by Autopilot after falling asleep at the wheel, in a state of intoxication. How did artificial intelligence operate to avoid the tragedy?

How is a car programmed to avoid the worst if its driver falls asleep at the wheel? The stakes are high in the driving of tomorrow, which will be increasingly automated.

As reported Electrek in an article published on August 2, the Norwegian owner of a Model S narrowly escaped drama on a fast lane. Drunk, he got behind the wheel of his vehicle until he fell asleep, as evidenced by a video filmed by another motorist. Luckily, he was saved by the Autopilot, which acted as it was programmed to do: by slowing the car to a complete stop, after finding that no one was in control.

Falling asleep while driving is still a complicated situation to manage

How a Tesla acts when it detects that the driver is no longer paying attention behind the wheel is clearly shown in user manual (‘Autopilot’ tab then ‘Heading-keeping assistance’, standard equipment): ” If you ignore successive Heading Assist messages prompting you to keep your hands on the wheel, the Heading Assist feature will turn off at the end of the trip and display the following message. (Editor’s note: Heading-keeping unavailable for the rest of the trip)If you do not switch to manual driving, Heading Assist emits a continuous audible warning, activates the hazard warning lights, and slows the vehicle to a complete stop. »

In an ideal world, one could imagine a car capable of parking itself on the side of the road to avoid danger as much as possible. But this additional security component requires advanced technologies, which would then allow artificial intelligence to get out of an emergency situation without any human intervention. This is the definition of autonomous driving, which Tesla’s Autopilot is not, for the time being. Today, its various developments do not yet allow it and it is easy to understand why: not all roads are alike and it is therefore the case-by-case principle that applies (it is not always possible to stop at the sides). In the news item mentioned above, the Model S, which was driving on the far left lane, could not have fallen back to the right for two reasons: there was a car at its side and, in Europe, the Tesla cannot change lanes without the driver’s consent (in the United States, this is possible, under more permissive regulation).

Tesla Autopilot // Source: Capture of March 1, 2019

Some might find it very dangerous to stop a car in the middle of a freeway. It is totally true. But it should be remembered that leaving a car to run alone with an unconscious driver behind the wheel can lead to dramatic consequences – as this video of an on-board camera, shared by an article fromAuto News dated June 21. Stop on the road with the warning activated normally makes it possible to avoid a pile-up, as long as the safety distances are respected. The solution chosen by Tesla to avoid accidents as much as possible is not an ideal option, rather a means of enhancing safety in a situation that could become tragic. As the site of the Road safety, having signs of drowsiness multiplies by 3 or 4 the risk of having an accident in the next half hour.

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Source: Numerama by www.numerama.com.

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