Thatcham slams Tesla over “fundamentally dangerous” software roll-out

Tesla’s launch and rapid withdrawal of ‘full self-driving’ software update brings scathing response from leading UK safety body

Tesla Model S

Tesla has been forced to abruptly withdraw the latest ‘over the air’ software roll-out for its autonomous driving system, after reports emerged from customers of bugs in the programme.

The upgrade went out on Saturday and was withdrawn yesterday, as Elon Musk tweeted his acknowledgement of problems with the system it describes as ‘Full Self-Driving’. “Seeing issues with 10.3, so rolling back to 10.2 temporarily,” he announced via the social media platform. “Please note, this is to be expected with beta software. It is impossible to test all hardware configs in all conditions with internal QA, hence public beta.”

Matthew Avery, Director of Insurance Research at Thatcham, the UK insurance industry funded research institute, has responded with a pithy condemnation of Tesla’s roll-out of so-called Beta-level technology to customers.

“Tesla has been leading the market with ‘Over The Air’ (OTA) updates for some time now. Its pioneering ability to instantly improve functionality and performance across its entire suite of vehicles is to be applauded. However, this news is a concern for a number of reasons,” said Avery.

“Firstly, the term ‘Full Self-Driving’ is wholly inaccurate. It is not possible to buy and drive a vehicle that’s capable of ‘full self-driving’ anywhere in the world today. It’s a driver assistance system which requires constant oversight and engagement from users.

“There’s a huge risk of misinterpretation from drivers receiving this update. If they haven’t read the small print carefully, they might not understand that the system is not ‘self-driving’, and that they, not the vehicle, are entirely liable for safe transit.

“Secondly, this is not a beta test with users of a web browser. Tesla drivers are essentially live testing a ‘minimum viable product’ in a real-world environment. There is a significant risk that the new version does not perform as anticipated, which when combined with a potential mismatch over the ‘full self-driving’ expectation, could give rise to dangerous uncertainty. “That Tesla has recognised this and rolled back the update promptly is testament to its intelligent use of OTA updates.

“But inviting its customers to try out new functionality is fundamentally dangerous, not least when thrown into the mix with naming conventions that over-sell the alleged self-driving capability of a vehicle.”

Find out more on autonomous cars here...

Recommended

Tesla adds active noise reduction tech to Model S and X
Tesla Model S and Model X
Tesla

Tesla adds active noise reduction tech to Model S and X

Tesla’s largest models get new feature activated via over-the-air software update, although only for latest examples
20 Dec 2021
Tesla Model 3 gains favour with the police
Tesla Model 3 police car - front
Tesla

Tesla Model 3 gains favour with the police

Tesla has been testing a blues-and-twos version of the Model 3 with the UK police for the past nine months – and the early results look promising
10 Dec 2021
Tesla Supercharger pilot scheme opens for other EVs in Holland
Tesla supercharger
Tesla

Tesla Supercharger pilot scheme opens for other EVs in Holland

Non-Tesla EVs can now recharge at 10 Superchargers in the Netherlands, as the company tests the waters for global roll-out
1 Nov 2021
'Tesla will have to work harder to stay at the top'
Tesla opinion
Tesla

'Tesla will have to work harder to stay at the top'

Steve Fowler points out how quickly the electric car industry is changing and what Tesla is doing to keep up
1 Nov 2021

Most Popular

“Mid-sized electric cars are way beyond the financial reach of most mums and dads”
Opinion - electric car prices
Opinion

“Mid-sized electric cars are way beyond the financial reach of most mums and dads”

Mike Rutherford thinks the industry needs to face the fact that a lot of people can’t afford a brand new factory-fresh car
16 May 2022
Best electric cars to buy 2022
Best electric cars
Electric cars

Best electric cars to buy 2022

There are more electric cars than ever to choose from, so we've picked some of the best you can buy in the UK now
28 Apr 2022
Tipo 184: on the road in the Mazda MX-5 based kit car
Tipo 184 kit car front
Features

Tipo 184: on the road in the Mazda MX-5 based kit car

Inspired by classic Grand Prix racing cars, Darren Collins has created a model that faithfully recreates the originals, but with a twist - it’s actual…
11 May 2022