NO HANDS ON THE WHEEL: A still image taken from a video published on YouTube in 2015, shows Joshua Brown in the driver's seat of his Tesla Model S with no hands on the steering wheel while he demonstrates the car's self-driving mode. Image: YouTube / AP
Los Angeles - A Tesla in Autopilot mode can drive itself but it's not a "self-driving" vehicle, at least as far as safety regulators are concerned.
Instead of coming under heavy government scrutiny before being sold to the public, Tesla can mass-produce cars that automatically adjust speed with the flow of traffic, keep their lane and brake in an emergency.
Tesla tells its customers to stay alert while driving, only use the technology on divided highways, keep their hands on the wheel and be prepared to take over should the technology fail.
The disclaimers — and a few regulatory wrinkles — are enough for the government. It's only if there are problems once the technology is on the road that regulators swoop in.
That is happening now as NHTSA investigates whether Autopilot has a defect that failed to prevent a fatal crash in Florida in May.