Left lane cruising to gaming while driving: AVs need regulations

February 7, 2022

Tyson Fisher

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Tesla is at it again, making headlines for faulty equipment directly related to its autonomous software. From left lane cruising to playing video games while driving, the time to heavily regulate the autonomous vehicle industry was yesterday.

Tesla is in a unique situation. It is front and center of an emerging industry that has incredible power before coming close to realizing its full potential. In recent memory, no other technology has captured the attention of a nation, let alone the entire world, before the product was even developed.

One can argue that smartphones have a similar effect on people. People are camped outside Apple stores the day before a new iPhone is launched, not knowing exactly what they are getting. However, Tesla is different. We are dealing with a primary mode of transportation that can be fatal if the technology is not perfected.

If your new iPhone has a bug, you may not be able to make a phone call or play Candy Crush. If your autonomous vehicle has a bug, you can can die.

Let’s take a look at some of the headlines/issues Tesla has been dealing with:

All of those occurred since December. Despite federal evaluations, investigations and felony charges, Tesla has not received so much as a slap on the wrist.

Stay in your left lane

Tesla’s Assertive mode in its Full Self Driving software is a great example of how the company is ignoring safety and common sense. Simultaneously, it shows how the government is ignoring Tesla.

On Jan. 31, Tesla recalled tens of thousands of vehicles because they would not stop at a stop sign. That was not a bug. It was a feature.

Assertive mode allows vehicles on Autopilot to have a smaller follow distance, perform more frequent speed lane changes, will not exit passing/left lanes and may perform rolling stops. In other words, Tesla is trying to take BMW’s undisputed title of being the carmaker for jackasses.

What Assertive Mode is doing is knowingly violating some traffic laws. Rolling stops are illegal in many parts of the country. The same is true with cruising in the left lane. Those features should not be allowed on any vehicles.

Meanwhile, Congress is doing what it is great at: Kicking the can further down the road.

Regulators, mount up!

Congress sees the need for autonomous vehicle regulation. It just needs to actually start regulating.

During a recent U.S. House of Representatives Highways and Transit subcommittee meeting titled “The Road Ahead for Automated Vehicles,” Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said that the advancement of automated vehicles requires a lot of regulatory responsibility.

“It’s a tremendous challenge to regulators,” DeFazio said. “It shouldn’t be done state by state. We need some reasonable guidelines federally, and we have to get it right.”

Agreed.

Truckers know how overzealous the government can get when it comes to transportation regulation. While Tesla is allowed to cruise the left lanes (sometimes illegally), truckers are prohibited from using the left lanes in many areas.

Phantom braking on Tesla vehicles? No big deal. Yet, safety groups and some Congress members want to mandate automatic emergency braking and collision mitigation software on all trucks, despite the fact that those technologies have shown to activate unnecessarily, causing a potentially fatal situation for motorists.

Some say no publicity is bad publicity, but Tesla may prove to be the exception to that rule. When you are the poster child for an emerging industry, an “I’ll do what I want” rebel attitude may set the industry backwards a few steps. Elon Musk and Tesla seem to believe they are more powerful than the government. So far, they have proven themselves to be correct.

DeFazio is correct. Congress needs to regulate the autonomous vehicle industry and get it right. While they are at it, revisit trucking regulations and get those right as well. LL

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.