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Tesla Says Its Model S Car Will Drive Itself This Summer

by SahithiMarch 22, 2015

For many drivers who commute long distances, the prospect of owning a self-driving car – where a driver takes his hands off the wheel and feet off the gas – has been an elusive dream.But on Thursday, Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla, took a big step in that direction when he announced that the maker of high-end electric cars would introduce autonomous technology by this summer.Musk said a software update – not a repair performed by a mechanic – would give Tesla’s Model S sedans the ability to start driving themselves, at least part of the time, in a hands-free mode that the company refers to as autopilot.But some industry experts said serious questions remain about whether such autonomous driving is actually legal.”There’s a reason other automakers haven’t gone there,” said Karl Brauer, an analyst with Kelley Blue Book.Brauer said that while a handful of states had passed laws legalizing autonomous vehicles, those laws were written to cover the testing of driverless cars, not their use by consumers.”It’s not just a philosophical reason why automakers haven’t allowed their vehicles to drive themselves,” he said. “There’s a legal reason, too.”

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Alexis Georgeson, a spokesman for Tesla, said that there was “nothing in our autopilot system that is in conflict with current regulations.”Georgeson said the system was designed to be used by an alert driver. “This is about releasing the driver from tedious tasks so they can focus and provide better input,” she said.There are cars on the road today from the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti and Honda that have the capability of driving themselves on the highway. But the automakers have taken steps to prevent actual autonomous driving in such cars, and instead require consumers to keep their hands on the wheel. A few seconds without touching the wheel, for example, and a warning is sounded; the cars then simply come to a stop.What Musk said Tesla was planning for this summer, however, would be a revolutionary step, said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with Edmunds.com.”Working through the legalities and the legislation continues to be an issue,” she said. “I’m not certain how Tesla would get around that.”

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