Elon Musk is no stranger to controversy on Twitter, but a recent tweet from the tech billionaire might have us reaching for the guzzolene.
Musk’s electric vehicle company, Tesla Inc, has so far enjoyed a lot of success with the Model S, but last year they unveiled a prototype of the “Tesla Semi”, an entirely electric, battery-powered truck. Unsurprisingly, the Tesla Semi has created a lot of excitement, with many companies pre-ordering thousands already.
But when a tweeter jokingly mocked up one of the “new press photos”, featuring the Semi photoshopped into a scene from the post-apocalyptic road-trip movie Mad Max: Fury Road, Musk was obviously inspired. He retweeted the picture with the message, “Tesla Semi Truck in Mad Max Mode”.
Obviously, hundreds of people replied to the tweet, sharing gifs from the movie and submitting their own “Mad Musk” creations.
But Musk’s tweet was, apparently, no joke. He followed it up with the confirmation “it’s real”, sharing a photo apparently of the development autopilot settings of the Semi. The blind spot threshold, which controls how aggressively the truck will overtake other road users, does indeed have three settings: “standard”, “aggressive”, and “Mad Max”.
“We considered going beyond Mad Max to “LA Freeway” level, but that’s too loco,” he went on to joke.
The blind spot threshold works by controlling how much space the vehicle needs before changing lanes. Changing from “standard” to “aggressive”, for instance, will reduce the amount of free space needed in the next lane for the Semi to allow itself to move over. Presumably, the “Mad Max” setting will reduce this requirement down to “the amount of space available in an Australian desert hellscape” level.
Tesla’s autopilot systems have already attracted their share of criticism, with a report earlier this year placing their self-driving software as the worst on the market. There have also been multiple cases of Tesla cars driving into emergency vehicles, or even causing fatalities, while in autopilot mode.
In response to claims that the term “autopilot” was misleading drivers into these accidents, a Tesla spokesperson reminded customers that “…Autopilot is a driver's assistance system that requires the driver to pay attention at all times.” And indeed, it seems that Musk expects the human driver to act as the safety mechanism for his “Mad Max” feature: when asked by a tweeter whether the option would really be available, he remarked that the Semi would “…[probably] have a manual override that requires continuous press for hardcore lane changes”.