Malaysian police probing Singaporean couple over use of Tesla’s autopilot; say function not allowed in country
SINGAPORE — The police in Malaysia have opened an investigation into a Singaporean couple who allegedly drove their Tesla electric vehicle while on autopilot mode on the country’s expressways after clearing customs at the Singapore-Malaysia border.
SINGAPORE / KUALA LUMPUR — The police in Malaysia have opened an investigation into a Singaporean couple who allegedly drove their Tesla electric vehicle while on autopilot mode on the country’s expressways after clearing customs at the Singapore-Malaysia border.
Malaysian news portal The Vibes on Thursday (April 7) reported that investigations into the couple's case are underway, saying there was confirmation from Mr Bakri Zainal Abidin, deputy director of Bukit Aman traffic investigation and enforcement department.
Mr Bakri told The Vibes that the use of Tesla’s autopilot function is “considered an offence under Rule 17 of the Road Traffic Rules 1959” in Malaysia.
He further explained that the law prohibits a driver “from being in a position where they do not have appropriate control over a vehicle”, The Vibes reported.
In a separate report by Chinese-language newspaper Guang Ming Daily, Mr Bakri also raised the issue of autopilot driving.
“Although there is currently no law (in Malaysia) that prohibits self-assisted driving, the system not only cannot keep the driver’s attention, but also cannot detect whether there is a driver in the car; drivers may see less road conditions, but pay more attention to the system in question,” he said.
"Therefore, the use of automatic driving systems while driving is still prohibited in our country.”
Tesla’s autopilot mode is a standard feature that is installed in the vehicle.
It allows the car to automatically accelerate up to a pre-set speed as well as brake for other vehicles or pedestrians that it sees ahead. The feature also allows for minimal steering to keep the car centred in a lane.
Technology website Tom’s Guide explained that the feature is designed to “assist with the most burdensome parts of driving” — such as driving long distances on expressways.
The issue came to the fore after a video was posted on TikTok by user “sgpikarchu” last Friday — the first day of the reopening of land borders between Singapore and Malaysia. The video purportedly shows the driver of the Tesla driving the vehicle on a Malaysian expressway while on autopilot mode.
The driver did not have his or her hands on the steering wheel while driving throughout most of the duration of the clip.
In another video posted on Tuesday, the couple said that the driver “normally” puts his or her hands on the steering wheel while driving on autopilot mode but does not do so in videos “so audiences can see how well (the autopilot mode) functions”.
As of Thursday, the TikTok user has posted 17 videos of their journey in Malaysia, including those showing the location of electric-vehicle chargers.