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A self-driving Tesla mistook the moon for a traffic light

A viral video on social media shows that the Tesla mistook the moon for a yellow traffic light, in a potentially worrying instance of an autopilot malfunction.

In that pre-sunset haze, it’s easy to mistake fuzzy-looking distant lights for the glow of a traffic control system. At least, that was my excuse when I was spotted in Amsterdam’s red light district. But in a potentially even more concerning development, a Tesla car that was employing its Full Self-Driving feature accidentally mistook the moon’s yellowish hue for the amber glow of a traffic light.

The video depicts the dashboard of a Tesla as it motors down the highway at around 64mph, under the full control of the autopilot. All seems peaceful, but then the onboard continually flashes up with the symbol of an amber traffic light every time that the crepuscular moon comes into full view.

The sight is so concerning that it caused me to temporarily ignore the driver’s lamentable taste in music (Harry Styles, really mate?) to wonder what the consequences could be for self-driving cars.

If simple everyday occurrences can be so significantly misinterpreted by the vehicle, that could put other drivers and pedestrians in danger — especially when a sudden and unforeseen development throws a spanner in the works. Is the potential risk to life really worth the reward of keeping one’s hands off the steering wheel?

Related: Someone tricked a Tesla into driving completely unmanned

This latest incident isn’t the first time that Tesla’s self-driving ability has been called into question. Back in April, the American publication Consumer Reports announced that it had “tricked” the Tesla Model Y to go into self-driving mode without anyone at all behind the wheel. For the safety of everyone involved, we hope that these problems can be ironed out before self-driving becomes more widespread.

 

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