The Automotive Industry, Briefly

Tesla is Expanding but May Run into a Huge Snag

09.06.16 - Tesla Building

News has come that Tesla is working to add a new retail store every four days over the next year in order to expand their global reach. The focus is on markets that include Taipei, Seoul and Mexico City with added expansion in markets that it already has strength in such as the California market. Even though there are some states that still don’t have Tesla stores in them the company sees itself as able to expand easily to offer a new experience for those shoppers who don’t want the typical dealer experience that’s part of our normal vehicle shopping strategy.

This expansion comes along with news that Tesla will host another event close to the end of the year t to show off what it has for us to see. This could be an exciting event that just might entice many who have held back from putting their $1,000 deposit down on the Model 3 to do so after the event is held. That’s because Tesla plans to showcase the now fully designed production model of the car at this show, but that’s not all they intend to offer us to show off what’ they’ve been working on.

Without letting the entire cat out of the bag Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has already informed us that the next version of the Autopilot feature is ready to be revealed and it is going to “blow people’s minds.” While he is obviously proud of what his company has accomplished, as well he should be, having the next version of a technology that is already being blamed for one death in a car seems to be a significant reason for us to question whether or not Tesla is moving too fast along the path of advanced technology.

Musk himself has acknowledged the fact that regulations will probably be put in place regarding autonomous driving technology at some time in the future, but he also informed us that the technology will be ready well ahead of the regulators enforcing any guidelines. This could cause a huge mess for Tesla and any other brands that equip vehicles with fully autonomous driving technology in the near future. There are truly many questions that need to be answered and until recent events it seemed the US regulators were content to sit back and wait to see what would be put to market first.

Why is there concern over fully autonomous driving that wasn’t present for semi-autonomous systems? One major reason for any concern is liability. With a semi-autonomous system the driver is informed they need to maintain some form of control over the vehicle. In most vehicles with a system of hands-free driving there are timed warnings that require the driver to touch the steering wheel or take back control of the vehicle for a period of time to ensure they understand the need to be continuously alert during the drive. This means the driver is still to be held responsible for the driving of their vehicle.

The direction we’re heading in with fully autonomous vehicles may take away this liability from the driver. What happens when the autonomous system fails? How soon will a driver need to react? We already have a wide range of recalls on vehicles for a myriad of safety reasons, can you imagine a vehicle that drives itself with the occupants all napping, reading a book or watching a movie. In this scenario those in the vehicle may not have enough time to react to the need to take over control of the vehicle and keep it from ending up in a collision.

If the Model S with the Autopilot system can fail to discern a trailer from the daytime sky what’s going to keep this from happening again with other technologies? The only possibilities will be strictly enforced guidelines for the technology, which will certainly cause Tesla to need to slow down in adding their autonomous driving technology to their vehicles. Even if regulators eventually slow things down the fact that the Model 3 is ready for production and we have the next version of the Autopilot system to review is reason enough for Elon Musk to have an event and celebrate these milestones later this year.



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