Last week, Californian automaker Tesla Motors made history when it began rolling out version 7.0 of its automotive operating system via an over-the-air software update, bringing a public beta of semi-autonomous ‘autopilot’ features to any Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X electric car made after September 2014.
But while we’ve seen a slew of YouTube videos from North American owners keen to show off the auto steer, auto lane change and auto park features switched on by Tesla’s latest update, those in Europe and Asia haven’t yet been offered the chance to have their cars drive themselves.
During last week’s press call unveiling the autopilot features of version 7.0 and detailing just how Tesla Motors [NASDQ:TSLA] had developed its system, Musk acknowledged that while those in North America would benefit from autopilot features in the coming few days, European and Asian customers would likely have to wait until this week, saying Tesla was still awaiting ‘final approval’ for the autonomous driving software to be given the green light by regulators on both continents.
Now it seems that hope has been dashed with the news, broken by Musk himself last night on social media site Twitter, that the regulatory process is taking longer than predicted.
Autopilot release to Europe and Asia pending regulatory approval. Hopefully get the ok in the next few weeks.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 19, 2015
Sadly, Musk didn’t explicate on the reasons for the delay, but the folks at Teslarati theorise that “it appears regulators in more than one country have put the kibosh on Tesla’s suite of Autopilot features, at least for now.”
While the site doesn’t give any evidence as to the validity of its theory, it’s worth noting that many European and Asian countries already have their own carefully choreographed autonomous vehicle pilot programs in operation. Different from country to country (and in some cases city to city) these programs have been set up at great expense to carefully study and plan for a future of self-driving cars, and it’s highly plausible that stakeholders in these various programs object to Tesla essentially circumventing pilot programs with its over-the-air update.
Another potential reason for discord is one of liability. In the U.S., Tesla has skillfully avoided the question of who is responsible for any accident involving a Tesla in autopilot mode by requiring that the driver not only click an acknowledgement that they agree to remain alert and ready to take over at all times, but also that they initiate each and every overtake or lane change maneuver by tapping the turn signal.
Tesla has even termed its first iteration of the autopilot software a ‘public beta,’ requesting that owners trying out autopilot keep their hands on the wheel at all times. From the videos on YouTube however, it’s clear that isn’t always happening, with the majority of Tesla owners who try out the autopilot feature eagerly crossing their hands and turning their attention elsewhere while the car drives itself.
A few videos have even surfaced showing the shock from drivers when the autopilot doesn’t behave quite as they’d expect, showing that even though customers have been cautioned about the use of autopilot, the majority are ignoring Tesla’s advice.
It’s concievable these videos, plus general caution over autonomous vehicles, means that some lawmakers are worried about the implications of letting autonomous vehicles onto the more crowded streets of Europe (and to that matter, Japan) without first thoroughly satisfying themselves that Tesla’s autopilot public beta is safe enough to be used on the public highway.
Regardless of the reasons for the regulatory delay however, one thing is ceratin. If you live outside of North America, you’re going to have to drive your Tesla the old-fashioned way a little bit longer.
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