Sudbury Tesla owner says the future is on autopilot

Steve Matusch owns one of Sudbury's first self-automated vehicles- the Tesla. While autopilot technology is still in its infancy, Matusch said to CBC Morning North host Markus Schwabe that although not perfect, the future rests in this type of automated system.

Tesla owner Steve Matusch took Morning North host Markus Schwabe on an 'autopilot' test drive through Sudbury

The future of safety is in the combination of drivers and automated systems that pilot vehicles like this Tesla, says Steve Matusch of Sudbury. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Steve Matusch owns one of Sudbury's first self-automated vehicles— the Tesla. While autopilot technology is still in its infancy, Matusch said to CBC Morning North host Markus Schwabe that even though it's not perfect, the future rests in this type of automated system.

Although bolstered by the recognizable Tesla brand name, Matusch pointed out that the automated technology is actually produced by MobilEye.

Matusch, a private pilot, said there's been some unfair publicity about the safety of automated systems like the Tesla's. He said the fault lies with the owner, not on the technology.

Still an experimental system

"This is an experimental system, they don't want you to rely on it," Matusch said, "[the accidents occur] when people use it in a way for which it was not intended. It was not intended for you to watch a movie for half an hour while the car drives."

Matusch was referring to the accident that claimed the life of Joshua D. Brown of Canton, Ohio.

Brown, the 40-year-old owner of a technology company, was killed May 7 in Williston, Florida, when his car's cameras failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky and didn't automatically activate its brakes, according to statements by the government and the automaker. 

Watch Markus Schwabe test drive an auto-piloted Tesla

Matusch's Tesla contains a number of ultrasonic sensors, camera, and radar. It can even monitor traffic and speed limit signs, and adjust its speed accordingly.

And even though Matusch, a private pilot, has flown thousand of miles using an aircraft's autopilot, he said the idea of auto-driving takes some getting used to.

"Until you get used to it, it's a little nerve-racking," he said.

Tesla's safety record has already proven itself, says Matusch

As for the safety, or concerns about the reliability of the technology, Matusch said the Tesla has already proved its worth.

"The reality is, in North America, there's one fatality for every 93 million miles driven. Even with new technology, they're doing better than human drivers," Matusch said.

Tesla said in a statement that the death in Florida was the first known death in over 130 million miles (209 million kilometres) of Autopilot operation.

"If we allow the technology to mature, it will provide a much safer environment for drivers. It already has, if the stats are meaningful," Matusch said.

For Matusch, the prospect of driving a vehicle that can potentially save lives on the highway is the clincher.

"Without a doubt its [selling point] is safety. People are flawed machines as well," he said.

"They get distracted, they do dumb things. But the combination of driver, with the appropriate automation, is what the future is.


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