In a recent test, the US consumer magazine Consumer Reports (CR) criticized that the safety mechanisms of Tesla’s “Autopilot” were not sufficient to prevent driving without a driver behind the wheel. A Model Y could therefore be driven on a closed test track without a person in the driver’s seat.
The daring test drive was triggered by an accident involving a Model S near Houston, Texas, in which two people were killed. According to previous knowledge, nobody was behind the wheel when the vehicle crashed into a tree at excessive speed in a residential area and burned out.
According to Elon Musk, evaluations of the vehicle data showed that the “Autopilot”, as Tesla calls the assistance system, was not activated at the time of the accident, and the car was not equipped with the FSD (Full Self-Driving) package.
CR used a Model Y for the test on an approximately 800-meter long test track. CR employee Jake Fisher first activated the autopilot while driving and then set the cruise control on the steering wheel to 0. This stopped the vehicle.
Fisher then prepared for the driverless drive — he hung a weight on the steering wheel to simulate the weight of his hands. Then he slid into the front passenger seat — it was not possible to get out to change seats because opening the driver’s door disables the autopilot. In addition, the driver’s seat belt must be fastened.
Then, from the passenger seat, Fisher could reach over to the cruise control on the steering wheel and set the car in motion. The car drove up and down the test track without realizing that the driver’s seat was empty and that no one was touching the steering wheel, Fisher said.
The autopilot is a system for partially automated driving (level 2). That means it supports you while driving. However, people must always remain in control and must not take their hands off the steering wheel; otherwise, there are visual and acoustic warnings. If they are ignored, the car stops. However, in the video, it can be seen that there were no warnings from the vehicle.
It is frightening how easily the safety precautions could be bypassed, said Fisher, warning against doing it — “Let me be clear: Anyone who uses Autopilot on the road without someone in the driver seat is putting themselves and others in imminent danger.”