As has been pointed out again and again, Level 2 ‘semi-autonomous’ systems simply cannot be left to their own devices. They’re assistance systems, and misusing them can lead to accidents.
And yet we continually see conspicuously stupid displays from people acting like self-driving cars are actually here, putting a dangerous amount of faith in what’s essentially a very smart form of cruise control. Just look at the guy who was recently banned from driving after shuffling over to the passenger seat of his Model S and letting Autopilot do the work.
In fact, a company has even made devices that trick the Model 3, S and X into thinking a hand is on the wheel when it isn’t. Dubbed “Autopilot Buddy”, it’s pitched as a “nag reduction device”. Yep, the warning that reminds drivers to remain in control of their vehicles is known as a “nag” within the Tesla community. Face, meet palm.
The product clips onto the steering wheel and simulates the light torque input of a human hand, stopping any warnings that might have otherwise been issued to the driver. The company behind the device claims that it “is not intended to be a hands-off device” and predictably insists it is “designed for closed track use only,” although we’re struggling to imagine a situation in which you’d use it on a circuit.
Unsurprisingly, the NHTSA thinks Autopilot Buddy is a bad idea, with the organisation issuing a cease and desist letter to the firm. The company says on its website that it is “not currently taking orders within the United States”. In a statement made to Autoblog, Tesla said: “We support NHTSA’s action regarding this product”.
UPDATE: the product is now listed as “discontinued” on the company’s website.