YouTube prankster MagicofRahat‘s recent ‘invisible driver’ prank involving him dressed in a black seat-shaped garment while cruising with Tesla Autopilot engaged, is more of a foreshadow to what our autonomous future may look like.
Drivers and onlookers are caught doing a double take before gawking in amazement as, what would appear to be, a driverless Tesla navigates itself down a busy freeway. This may not be the type of attention Tesla needs at the moment considering there’s been a number of unfortunate incidents involving Tesla’s Autopilot as of late, but regardless of those mishaps Tesla is advancing on its mission to building driverless technology rumored to be making its way into the company’s upcoming Model 3.
There’s little doubt the company is aggressively pressing forward on improvements to its Autopilot suite. Last week, Matt Simmons posted photos of a Model S equipped with a cobbled together array of sensors that may be a hint of things to come. It’s unconfirmed whether the vehicle belongs to Tesla and is a test mule for Autopilot 2.0, but the depth of hardware and sensors mounted on the vehicle, combined with the fact that Uber and Ford have been spotted testing their self-driving technology within the same region, leads many to believe this could be a company car.
The pace of development throughout the industry on self-driving systems is accelerating. General Motors has purchased San Francisco start-up Cruise Automation for $1 billion this year and invested a further $$500 million in ride sharing service Lyft. Toyota has just made a small investment in Uber. Last week, Volkswagen made a sizable investment in Israeli ride sharing company Gett. Apple is said to stockpiling software engineers to help it ramp up its autonomous capability. And Google has forged a partnership with Chrysler to outfit 100 new Pacificas with self driving functions.
In the midst of all this software development, regulators are paying more attention to the developments in the field. That means treating autonomous driving as a parlor trick for laughs may not be the smartest thing a Tesla driver could do. At least the prankster maintained control of his car and didn’t rear end anyone.