Experts of the publication Consumer Reports conducted an experiment in which they tried to find out how the autopilot behaves in Tesla electric cars without a driver behind the wheel. As a result of several trips on the 800-meter-long closed test track, it turned out that the software does not detect the absence of a person in the driver’s seat and does not in any way warn about it. The Consumer Reports team used a 2020 Model Y – the car continued to move clearly within the lane markings as the tester left the driver’s seat.
How the experiment went: the autopilot was activated while driving on the test track, after which the speed was reduced to zero using the speed controller (on the right side of the steering wheel) and the Model Y came to a complete stop. Then a Consumer Reports specialist hung a light weight (two tapes) on the steering wheel to simulate the weight of the driver’s hands and moved to the front passenger seat without opening any of the car doors to continue the autopilot operation. Model Y successfully managed to re-accelerate to 50 km / h, while the system never noticed that there was no one in the driver’s seat and no one even touched the steering wheel.
Consumer Reports demonstrated the danger of autopilot in the recent fatal crash in Spring, Texas, where two passengers crashed on a 2019 Model S. According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the owner did not set the autopilot, and it presumably would not have worked anyway, since there were no markings on the winding road where the collision occurred. The incident is currently being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, the cause of the tragedy has not been established.
The publication concluded that “Tesla’s autopilot was not only unable to make sure that the driver was not watching the road, but was also unable to determine whether the driver was driving at all.” According to experts, Tesla lags behind such automakers as General Motors and Ford in terms of the development of the autopilot. They have technologies that monitor driver attention on models with advanced driver assistance systems. For example, BMW, Subaru and others are installing infrared cameras in the cabin – they record eye movements and the position of the driver’s head, preventing him from being distracted from the road.