Tesla’s Autopilot can ‘easily’ be used to drive
Tesla’s Autopilot system can “easily” be used to drive the automaker’s vehicles without anyone behind the wheel, Consumer Reports said in a new demonstration. The magazine conducted the study on a test track after a widely publicized Tesla Model S crash in Texas on Saturday when two people were killed in a wreck that sparked an hours-long blaze. Local authorities said it appeared no one was in the driver’s seat. The National Transportation Safety Board and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have opened investigations into the incident. Tesla’s Autopilot system enables automatic steering, accelerating and braking on roads with lanes, but it does not work in all situations. Tesla has said that drivers are supposed to keep their hands on the wheel at all times, ready to take over when the system is not able to perform.
“In our test, the system not only failed to make sure the driver was paying attention–it couldn’t even tell if there was a driver there at all,” Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, said in a statement.
It’s not clear whether Autopilot was engaged in the latest Tesla crash. Tesla representatives have not responded to multiple requests seeking comment. On Monday, after reports about the crash circulated, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter that “data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled”. That could not be independently verified. Tesla vehicles are not capable of fully driving themselves.
“Moreover, standard Autopilot would require lane lines to turn on, which this street did not have,” he said. But a study released in October by Duke University autonomous vehicle experts Benjamin Bauchwitz and M.L. Cummings found that in almost one-third of automated driving tests, Tesla “vehicles drove autonomously for nearly 30 seconds on extreme curves that lacked even a single lane marking.”