Image credit: floridatoday.com
Tesla CEO Elon Musk was interviewed in the third and final installment of Automotive News’ “Daily Drive.” Publisher Jason Stein and Musk seemed to enjoy the conversation today, which at times was totally hilarious. They agreed they should try to catch up every couple of years.
Topics covered Musk’s management style, regulatory credits, near- and long-term goals for Tesla, and even the CEO’s thoughts on succession—perhaps for some decade in the future when even Neuralink cannot help the poor man.
But what we wish to reflect on today is the dialogue on Autopilot:
“The German court had just declared that the Autopilot name was misleading,” Stein explained. “What was your reaction to that?”
“Well,” Musk replied, “they should probably rename the Autobahn too... haha. Because people might think your car just works automatically on the Autobahn. hahahahahaha.”
Of note, this represents our best chuckle-count approximation. Did we get this about right, Mr. Musk?
Autopilot’s naming has indeed been a hot topic. Although Musk explains that the debate itself is ultimately absurd—or even “idiotic.” In instances where something has gone wrong with Autopilot, Musk posits that this is because drivers used it in a way that directly goes against Tesla’s very direction on usage—all-the-while often ignoring the various and increasingly alarming alerts built into the system.
In other words, following directions when operating a vehicle is super important, whether driving a Tesla or any other car—with or without driver-assist features. But users’ willingness or not to follow directions does not prove or disprove the fitness of Autopilot as a name.
The term “automobile” has done okay over the years, for example. Perhaps there were some disgruntled horse-goers at first, who bought a car thinking it would magically portal them places by itself—that it would even consume its own fuel and self-maintain.
To the horse-folk’s credit, though, how were they to know that the automobile would indeed neither clean up after itself? Nonetheless, it seems these are hardly reasons to have nixed the automobile name.
Furthermore, per Musk, on the roots of the Autopilot designation:
“It’s actually named after autopilot from aircraft—and all that does is maintain altitude and heading.”
The moral of the story? Many have been moved—and appropriately so—by the EV maker’s exciting products. The Tesla “pixie dust” may be real, but it’s most wise to follow directions when using it.