Saying “Tesla owners” has taken on a very specific meaning, just as we’re familiar with the stories that come to mind when we hear “Florida Man” at the start of any new report—a familiarity that brings with it a sense of curiosity and mild alarm. In recent news, Tesla owners were warned against wearing the Apple virtual reality headsets while driving their vehicles, after a new trend showed videos of people using their Apple Vision Pro headset while using the autonomous mode on their vehicles. The Apple Vision Pro release on 2 February just saw many expectant customers get their hands on the device and while the headset has many uses and features to explore, driving while using the device was not supposed to be one of them.
Why is it always a tesla owner?
— Tesla Ls (@TeslatakingLs) February 4, 2024
Tesla Owners Warned: Apple Virtual Reality Headsets Not Designed for Driving
Preceding the recent Apple Vision Pro release, the company has been very careful to avoid calling it a VR headset although that is what the device seems to be and the term has been attached to the device anyway. The company’s new “spatial computing” device has an assortment of features available that allow you to display desired information in front of you and interact with it through gestures and eye movement. What it does not do, is assist with the experience of driving to any degree. Unfortunately for the company, recent buyers of the Apple virtual reality headsets, specifically those who were also Tesla owners, were seen trying to drive around with the headset on.
The Tesla vehicles have an autonomous driving mode that provides various adaptive and responsive features that can simplify driving for its owners. It has three modes—Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot, and Full Self Driving capabilities—that can be engaged to provide varying degrees of control or freedom for the driver. From Autosteer to Smart Summon, there are various degrees to which a Tesla can maneuver on its own, but the company still does not state that the car is to be allowed to run without supervision.
“The currently enabled Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous. Full autonomy will be dependent on achieving reliability far in excess of human drivers as demonstrated by billions of miles of experience, as well as regulatory approval, which may take longer in some jurisdictions. As Tesla’s Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving capabilities evolve, your vehicle will be continuously upgraded through over-the-air software updates.”
According to the BBC, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg expressed a word of warning on X/Twitter, to Tesla owners and all those driving the autonomous vehicles, “Reminder – ALL advanced driver assistance systems available today require the human driver to be in control and fully engaged in the driving task at all times.” Those caught using the Apple virtual reality headsets reportedly stated that they were only using it as a prank for the video and not for their entire drive, but the risks add up all the same. Apple too has its warnings in place for the use of the Apple Vision Pro but not everyone is likely to adhere to the instructions quite so willingly.
“Apple Vision Pro is designed for use in controlled areas that are safe, on a level surface. Do not use it around stairs, balconies, railings, glass, mirrors, sharp objects, sources of excessive heat, windows, or other hazards. Never use Apple Vision Pro while operating a moving vehicle, bicycle, heavy machinery, or in any other situations requiring attention to safety. Using the device in low light conditions may increase the risk of collision with objects in your environment.”
We’re quite curious to see how this story evolves and what other kinds of warnings we’ll see come up as new technology grows more commonplace. The Apple “not-virtual reality” headsets have brought the conversation around VR glasses and devices to the forefront of the public eye again, and while it’s unlikely that the device itself will feature everywhere considering its price, we’ll likely see other versions gain popularity soon enough.