All he wanted the car to do was drive him to the liquor store, but the vehicle had entirely different plans. Christian Church, 47, of Hamilton, NJ, has a beta-test version of the software update that will soon give Tesla Model S sedans the ability to drive themselves. Until yesterday Church had had no problems with the new technology, but at around 7 pm last night things literally went off course. After he input his destination into the car’s computer, Church kicked back in the rear seat and started to read the newspaper. When he looked up about ten minutes later, he realized he wasn’t anywhere near the liquor store, which is only about four miles from his house. He told Bud Fox News:
Before I could get an explanation from the system, the neighborhood started to look pretty familiar to me. I said to myself, “Holy Christ, this thing’s taking me to Mai’s house.” She’s my ex-wife. I haven’t seen her since the divorce.
Church was unable to override the Tesla navigational system and wound up parked in his ex-wife’s driveway. The situation deteriorated from there. According to Mr. Church:
Mai’s car was out front, so she was home. My car horn started honking and wouldn’t stop, so she finally came to the door because there was such a racket. Then my car’s rear window rolled down, so she could see me. That’s when the car’s PA system kicked in. I nearly died right there on the spot. The voice sounded exactly like mine. Heck, for a minute I thought I was speaking. It started to apologize to Mai for all the crappy stuff I did when we were married. To be honest, the car laid it on a bit thick. I mean there was only that one secretary and the dental hygienist from Hoboken. The car made it seem like I had a harem of women. And I’ll admit it, I played quarters with those college kids when they were home on spring break. OK, I guess I did owe her an apology.
Last Thursday, Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk announced that his company would introduce autonomous technology for its electric cars this summer. In reality, what Tesla’s promising sounds like glorified cruise control, but if Mr. Church’s experience is any indication, there are nonetheless glitches to be worked out. Moreover, a Tesla owner who’s getting chauffered around by his car might need one of his free hands to dial an attorney because it’s probably not yet legal to let a car drive itself. Although some states have passed laws giving the OK to driver-less vehicles, the laws were meant to cover the testing of the technology, not consumer use. Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, told the New York Times that the legal picture needs clarification:
If it’s fully autonomous, who’s responsible if there’s a mistake? The driver or the company who made it? I don’t see how Tesla’s going to clear the hurdles. They may have to go to each state legislative body and convince them, and that takes time.
Mr. Church said he is selling his Model S:
You know, the apology was fine. She deserved an apology from me. But then the damned car told her, in my goddamn voice, that we should redo the divorce papers so she’d get more alimony. I’m selling that thing back to the dealer. With the money I get, I can buy one of those $17,000 Apple watches and still have plenty left over.