Currently, Tesla and other automakers don’t offer completely autonomous cars. Instead, their autopilot features are billed as driver assistance, meaning that, though the driver isn’t acting explicitly, their attention is implied. If, in an emergency situation, the car requests the driver take over, the person in that seat needs to be ready to act or they risk contributing to a car accident. But even with these constraints constantly stressed by car manufacturers, videos abound on YouTube of Tesla drivers occupied with questionable tasks, from reading newspapers to brushing their teeth; some even show their drivers sitting in the back seat, much too far from the wheel to respond in an emergency. Still further videos reveal flaws in the car’s autopilot system, especially with how it responds to changes in road markings, making it abundantly clear that distracted driving is still entirely unacceptable even in “self-driving mode”.
But as of yet, there are no laws regulating these so-called self-driving cars. For Transport Canada, building a regulatory framework meant gathering a wealth of briefing notes for Transport Minister Marc Garneau, much of which highlighted potential concerns. The Canadian Press obtained said notes under the Access to Information Act, which detailed much apprehension: “The issue of the attentive driver is … problematic,” wrote one official in a string of emails concerning Tesla’s purported “self-driving” car. The note continued: “Drivers tend to overestimate the performance of automation and will naturally turn their focus away from the road when they turn on their auto-pilot.”
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