Testing a Driverless Future in a Tesla


There are times when I want to move into a cottage and scold neighborhood children, wagging a crooked finger because their revolutionary ways scare me. Then there are times when I welcome the inevitable robot apocalypse, wishing artificial intelligence would just take over already. Yes, fine, yes, gather my data, tell me what to do, image-capture my chins from an up-angle, put me in a giant space egg while reading softly in the disembodied voice of George Orwell. I don't care! My wagging finger is tired, and I am confused!

Anyway, I recently found myself riding in a Tesla.

I do mean riding, because no one, least of all the driver, was completely driving. My colleague recently bought a new white Tesla Model Y that does, in fact, look like a space egg. Starting in April, he tapped into a Tesla promotion. The company, run by problematic social media overlord and would-be Ozymandias Elon Musk, offered customers free trials of what Tesla calls Full Self-Driving technology. The most advanced version of Tesla's driver assistance software is normally a $12,000 add-on, or $199 a month.

It's a bit of a misnomer, as the car requires a human presence. In fact, the government insists on it. In December, Tesla recalled software in more than two million vehicles after officials said the company needed to do more to keep drivers paying attention. And this month, Tesla settled a lawsuit involving the 2018 death of an Apple engineer who was using an earlier version of the tech when the car crashed. There are other cases around the country.

My co-worker offered to take me for a robot spin.

"OK," I said, thinking, "Well, I've had a good run."


He deposited his work bag in the front hood of the car.

"Your trunk is in the front," I observed.

"That's the FRUNK," he replied, explaining that I needed to understand the Tesla terminology.

The space egg was comfortable and cool on a hot spring day. On an enormous dashboard computer tablet, he punched in a destination a few miles away. He backed out, which the tech requires, and started the magic.


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Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate Inc.




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