Tesla is taking on the challenge of fully self-driving semi-trucks, which operate with a minimal amount of human-driver oversight. The sleek truck design looks like something out of a futuristic sci-fi movie.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk uploaded a photo of the control panel for the truck that is still in beta testing. It shows the Blind Spot Threshold choices of Standard, Aggressive, and Mad Max. Under the Mad Max mode, the vehicle can make quick lane changes despite other vehicles coming up from behind. Moreover, Musk joked that the designers considered an LA Freeway mode, but decided it might be unsafe.
In the future, the trucks may have an aggressive lane-changing ability that is allowed by the human operator pressing and holding down a button when making a hand-guided move in traffic. This may not be such a great idea to allow human drivers to override the autopilot system because a human-driver error is responsible for the vast majority of traffic accidents.
The move to advance self-driving vehicles continues in spite of the fatal crashes that have occurred in the infancy of this innovative technology sector. Detractors say that these vehicles are not safe, however, Tesla has stressed that their vehicles are not fully autonomous and are more of a driver assistant than anything.
Musk points out that the driver is able to take control to “bully” the autopilot because the vehicle will always revert back to human operation when desired. However, allowing the autopilot to drive more aggressively makes many people concerned. Musk also notes that plans for the future include self-driving vehicles without any steering wheels that they have now.
This does not mean that the autopilot driving systems are perfect. Quite the contrary, the software that runs the autopilot system makes mistakes. In March 2018, a self-driving Uber on autopilot, hit a woman and killed her. She was crossing the street in the middle of the road, where there was no intersection and it was dark out. The human driver was watching Hulu. In that case, neither the autopilot system nor the human driver saw the woman, though, if the driver paid attention, the incident could have been avoided.
Another interesting update is that Musk Tweeted on June 9, 2018, that Tesla is working on a SpaceX rocket option for the Tesla vehicles. This optional feature would strategically place rocket boosters around the vehicle to help with acceleration, cornering, and braking. Now that would be an over-the-top Mad Max style!