The following is an excerpt from Aaron M. Kessler | October 15, 2015 | Nytimes.com |
WASHINGTON — It is not every day you get to open a door and step into the future.
But to pull the handle on a newly updated Tesla Model S this week and slide into the driver’s seat was to catch a glimpse of the auto industry’s plans to soon let cars drive us, rather than the other way around.
The updated Tesla, an already high-tech electric car that starts at about $75,000, was equipped with what the company calls Autopilot — a semiautonomous feature that allows hands-free, pedal-free driving on the highway under certain conditions. The car will even change lanes autonomously at the driver’s request (by hitting the turn signal) and uses sensors to scan the road in all directions and adjust the throttle, steering and brakes.
It is the first time that a production vehicle available to consumers will have such advanced self-driving capabilities. Or more to the point, the first time they will be unleashed for driving 70 miles per hour along twisty, though clearly marked, highways for long stretches. (Other manufacturers like Volvo and Mercedes-Benz recently introduced their own semiautonomous features, but limit the functions to lower speeds or require the driver to constantly touch the wheel.) And it’s perfectly legal. Among the states, only New York has any law prohibiting hands-free driving.
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