Autopilot release to Europe and Asia pending regulatory approval. Hopefully get the ok in the next few weeks.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 19, 2015
That tweet from Elon Musk is causing consternation among Tesla owners outside North America. While no details have been released, it appears that regulators in more than one country have put the kibosh on Tesla’s suite of Autopilot features, at least for now.
So far, there has been no corresponding bureaucratic outcry from regulators in North America, who appear to be satisfied that the system requires the driver to be paying attention at all times. While it is possible to go some distance in “hands off” mode, the system reminds drivers with a visual and audible warning if the vehicle is unable to sustain self-driving.
Meanwhile, the internet is flooded with videos showing Tesla drivers doing exactly what they are not supposed to. Take, for example, this video of a car negotiating a significant curve without human assistance. Such exploits may be very cool, but they are likely to capture the attention of motor vehicle rule makers, who perhaps are not fully aware of exactly how much hands-free driving is possible with the capabilities of Autosteer.
Government regulations being what they are in all countries around the world, how sure are we that whatever concerns have been expressed will be resolved in “a few weeks”? Regulators do not normally respond at the speed of business.
And there is another factor to consider. If officials in some countries start saying they have concerns about the Autopilot software, how long before some publicity hungry minion in the US starts stirring the pot here as well? Did Tesla get sandbagged by administrators in other countries into thinking it had the official OK to move forward with the Version 7.0 update, only to be informed at the last minute that there would be delays in securing the needed approvals? Tesla is a ripe target for all sorts of political shenanigans, whether it concerns selling direct to consumers or the wisdom of autonomous driving software.
With Tesla taking sales away from other premium manufacturers, particularly in Europe, who is to say which auto executives have been having a quiet word with their national representatives. We will keep you updated about the delay as more information becomes available.