Malaysia police are investigating after a Singaporean couple filmed themselves driving their Tesla hands-free on autopilot to Penang during a multi-day road trip.
@sgpikarchu Crossed the custom within 45 minutes at midnight. Drove past KL, continuing up north! Go Tesla 🤓 #SgTeslaGoesMsia #EVboleh ♬ Vacation - Dirty Heads
According to Guang Ming Daily, Bukit Aman Traffic Investigations and Enforcement chief assistant director Superintendent Bakri Zainal Abidin said their actions were prohibited in Malaysia and the police will invoke the Land Transport Act 1987 to launch an investigation.
This was so as the Tesla does not have a “full self-driving” system in place even though it was fitted with Full Self-Driving Hardware, rendering the vehicle not fully autonomous and still requiring the driver's attention.
“The autopilot feature in Tesla cars is helpful to drivers, but it doesn’t mean that drivers can completely take their hands off the steering wheel and mistakenly think that the system can automatically and safely control the car,” Bakri said.
Hands-free driving unsafe, driver needs to be attentive
He said the use of automated driving functions can lead to drivers to become inattentive and insensitive to road conditions, citing a research report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Bakri added that even though Malaysia currently has no laws against automated driving, these systems do not help drivers keep their full attention on driving and the car cannot even determine if there is a driver sitting in the vehicle.
He also said: “This will probably cause the driver to pay less attention to the traffic around them, and instead spend their time on other distracting things, such as using a mobile phone while driving.”
He added that the United States prohibits the use of autonomous vehicles, but the manufacturers have been testing such vehicles with permission and permits.
Bakri also said the Road Traffic Rules 1959 calls for good attitude, caution and concentration while driving.
Drivers should always pay attention on the road even if all vehicles in the future are equipped with automated driving functions, so that drivers can still prevent an accident should these systems fail, he explained.
He was referring to hotspots where accidents take place, which are usually in rural areas, and these are situations where drivers need to be situationally aware.
Bakri also referenced the accident in California in 2019, in which the driver of a Tesla utilised the autopilot function, ran a red light, and slammed into another car.
The driver was charged with two counts of manslaughter in January 2022 as two people died.
He said the incident showed the dangers autopiloting caused.
A couple from Singapore put up multiple videos on TikTok to demonstrate that a road trip up north in Malaysia spanning more than 800km across multiple states can be done in a Tesla.
One video showed the couple en route to Penang on the highway utilising the autopilot function in their Tesla without the driver's hands on the steering wheel.
The couple said they only went hands-free to demonstrate the function.
In their manual, Tesla has told drivers to put their hands on the steering wheel at all times.
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