Has Tesla found a way to ensure Autopilot users stay focused on the road?

Tesla Model 3
Miles Branman/Digital Trends

The recent string of accidents involving Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system, which have included fatalities, has prompted the automaker to take action. It has released a new version of the system via an over-the-air software update that it believes will help ensure users stay focused on the road ahead.

Autopilot version 2018.21.9 reminds the driver more often to keep his or her hands on the steering wheel. User videos posted on YouTube show the system emitting visual and audible warnings after it detects the driver’s hands are off the steering wheel for about 30 seconds. Previously, it took up to two minutes before the system sent out the warnings. The change applies to the Model S, the Model X, and the Model 3.

The update comes in the wake of several crashes that were blamed on drivers not using Autopilot properly. In May, a 28-year-old woman from Utah rammed into the back of a fire truck she didn’t see because she was looking down at her phone. She escaped with only minor injuries. There’s no word yet on why Autopilot didn’t detect the truck. In March, the driver of a Model X died near San Jose, California, after his crossover veered into a concrete divider and caught fire. Investigators still don’t know why the Model X turned toward the divider but they determined the driver’s hands weren’t on the wheel — and, presumably, his eyes were not on the road — in the moments leading up to the crash.

Tesla began releasing Autopilot version 2018.21.9 on June 10. Not every owner has welcomed the update with open arms. Posting on Twitter, owner Dan Holz called it a step backward for the semi-autonomous technology. Company co-founder and CEO Elon Musk — an avid Twitter user — responded and agreed.

“Sigh. This is crux of matter: can’t make system too annoying or people won’t use it, negatively affecting safety, but also can’t allow people to get too complacent or safety again suffers. Latest update should have a positive effect on latter issue especially,” he wrote. We’ll know for sure at the end of June when Tesla keeps its promise of releasing its first quarterly safety report.

Cars

Has Apple rebooted its self-driving car program to develop autonomous vans?

The on-again, off-again Apple car is back on track, but it's not a sedan or a hatchback. It will arrive as an electric, autonomous passenger-carrying van, according to a recent report.
Cars

Tesla will release fully self-driving cars in 2019 — with a big asterisk

Tesla reaffirmed its goal of releasing a fully self-driving car by the end of 2019, but it warned the system won't work perfectly 100 percent of the time. Convincing regulators that it's safe to use will require some effort, too.
Cars

Watch a modified Audi e-tron electric SUV drive straight up a ski slope

A modified Audi e-tron climbed up an 85-percent gradient on an Austrian ski slope in a tribute to a classic Audi commercial. The vehicle used for the stunt sported an extra electric motor and spiked tires.
Cars

2020 GMC Acadia toughens up on the outside, gets smarter on the inside

The 2020 GMC Acadia crossover gets styling updates and a more rugged AT4 trim level. Under the skin, the Acadia sports a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a wider array of tech features.
Cars

Mamma mia! Alfa Romeo will unveil a new model at the Geneva Auto Show

Alfa Romeo told Digital Trends it will unveil a new model at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show. It stopped short of revealing what it has in store, but rumors claim it will be a crossover positioned below the Stelvio.
Cars

Citroën says you could drive its tiny Ami One electric car without a license

Citroën's Ami One concept car is an electric vehicle that's as cute as it is compact. The miniature motor only has a top speed of 28 mph, so the French automaker imagines it as a shareable runaround for short drives.
Cars

Arizona city slammed with $10M lawsuit over fatal Uber autonomous car accident

The family of Elaine Herzberg, the woman struck and killed by one of Uber's self-driving prototypes, has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the city of Tempe, Arizona. They claim Herzberg jaywalked because she was confused by a brick…
Cars

Mercedes lets the sun shine in one last time with SLC Final Edition convertible

The Mercedes-Benz SLC convertible sports car is going out of production. Launched in 1996 as the SLK, the model has been a fixture in the Mercedes-Benz lineup across three generations.
Cars

Aston Martin’s next hypercar, due in 2021, will pack a hybrid powertrain punch

Aston Martin will follow up the Valkyrie and Valkyrie AMR Pro with a new hypercar, code-named Project 003. The car will debut in 2021, with production limited to 500 units worldwide.
Cars

Apple opens up about its self-driving car program in letter to NHTSA

Apple has traditionally kept details about its self-driving car technology under wraps, but it has revealed details about the program in a rare instance of openness. The company takes safety seriously.
Cars

Consumer Reports bumps the Tesla Model 3 off of its list of recommended models

The Tesla Model 3 is one of the six new cars that have lost their coveted Recommended rating from Consumer Reports over reliability concerns. In 2018, Model 3 owners reported body trim falling off and problems with the car's glass.
Cars

Lyft’s Shared Saver service offers cheaper rides, but you’ll have to walk a little

Lyft has launched a new ride option called Shared Saver that offers cheaper rides if you're willing to walk a little. Shared Saver designates a nearby pick-up point and drops you off a short distance from your final destination.
Cars

Waymo’s self-driving prototype obeys a traffic cop’s hand signals

One of Waymo's self-driving prototypes successfully navigated a situation that leaves even some human drivers confused: An intersection whose traffic lights are down. It waited for the traffic cop to wave it on.
Cars

Kia is bringing a bionic-looking electric concept car to the Geneva Auto Show

Kia wants to hog the spotlight at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show by revealing a head-turning electric concept car. The yet-unnamed model reaffirms the brand's commitment to electrification, while taking design and performance to new levels.