Story at a glance
- Consumer Reports engineers were able to operate a Tesla on autopilot with no one in the driver’s seat.
- The test was conducted on a closed half-mile test track in a Tesla Model Y.
- Tesla’s autopilot feature has faced renewed scrutiny amid a series of accidents.
Engineers were able to trick a Tesla into operating on autopilot with no one in the driver’s seat, with the car’s system failing to alert to the fact that the driver’s seat was empty, Consumer Reports announced on Thursday.
The test, which Consumer Reports engineers conducted on a closed half-mile test track in a Tesla Model Y, comes amid renewed scrutiny of Tesla’s self-driving feature after a series of accidents.
“In our evaluation, the system not only failed to make sure the driver was paying attention, but it also couldn’t tell if there was a driver there at all,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’s senior director of auto testing and the study’s lead.
In Texas on Saturday, a Tesla Model S crashed, killing the car’s two occupants. The police said the Tesla, which was on autopilot, came quickly around a curve, veering off the road and striking a tree.
“Our investigation has determined that one of the victims was in the front passenger seat; one was in the back seat,” said Mark Herman, a constable for Harris County Precinct 4.
Tesla’s autopilot function was created to aid drivers, allowing them to take their hands off the steering wheel at times, but the feature does "require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous," according to Tesla.
However, Consumer Reports stated, "Tesla is falling behind other automakers like GM and Ford that, on models with advanced driver assist systems, use technology to make sure the driver is looking at the road."
Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted, “Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase FSD. Moreover, standard Autopilot would require lane lines to turn on, which this street did not have.”
Texas police are still investigating the accident.
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