Electric vehicle maker Tesla is trying out an aggressive “Mad Max” driving mode in its prototype autopilot feature, chief executive Elon Musk revealed Monday.
The mode — named after the post-apocalyptic 1979 Mel Gibson film — is the highest setting of Tesla’s blind spot detection system in its autopilot.
The setting, which allows for a smaller distance threshold to nearby vehicles, is made for highways with heavy traffic — like Los Angeles’ notorious Interstate 405 during rush hour — when changing lanes can be challenging.
Musk responded to a Twitter user’s creative image of a Tesla semi truck featured in a “Mad Max” dystopian setting with, “It’s real.”
He tweeted a photo of Tesla’s development-stage autopilot display, showing “Mad Max” mode beside the lower “Aggressive” and “Standard” settings.
“We considered going beyond ‘Mad Max’ to ‘LA Freeway’ level, but that’s too loco,” he added in another tweet.
Tesla’s current autopilot system, featured in the Model S and recently released Model 3, controls steering, braking and acceleration — though drivers are still required to hold the steering wheel and stay alert.
“Every driver is responsible for remaining alert and active when using Autopilot, and must be prepared to take action at any time,” Tesla says on its website.
The system has not been controversy-free, however.
Autopilot was in use during two fatal Tesla crashes, most recently in March just a few miles from Tesla’s Palo Alto, California headquarters. The incident sparked an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and complaints from consumer safety watchdogs.
“Nothing in the real world is perfect. I do think that long-term it can reduce fatalities by a factor of 10.”