Tesla Autopilot Rated ‘Distant Second’ By Consumer Reports

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The Tesla Model X. Image credit: Tesla

More bad news for Tesla Autopilot system after Consumer Reports testing found it is ‘distant second’ to similar system from GM

American testing organisation Consumer Reports has delivered another knock for the Telsa Autopilot driver assistance system.

Consumer Reports evaluated 17 vehicles equipped with active driving assistance systems and it concluded that Tesla Autopilot (in a Tesla Model Y) finished “a distant second” to a Cadillac CT6 equipped with Super Cruise.

It comes after Tesla Autopilot was recently found to have been surpassed by rival driver systems from the likes of Mercedes, BMW, and Audi in research by European New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).

Distant second

“Even after two years, Cadillac’s Super Cruise remained our top-rated system because, when turned on, it uses direct driver monitoring to warn drivers that appear to have stopped paying attention to the road,” stated CR on Wednesday.

“General Motors told CR that Super Cruise will be on 22 GM vehicles by 2023,” it added. “Of the other systems we tested, we saw minor improvements in lane keeping performance for the Tesla and Volvo.”

“Systems that didn’t give clear warnings to the driver to pay attention, such as Volvo’s, or that failed to keep the vehicle within its lane, even on fairly straight roads, such as systems from Buick, Mazda, and Land Rover, didn’t fare well in our overall scoring,” CR stated.

“Even with new systems from many different automakers, Super Cruise still comes out on top due to the infrared camera ensuring the driver’s eyes are looking toward the roadway,” said Kelly Funkhouser, CR’s head of connected and automated vehicle testing.

The CR test found that the Cadillac scored 69 points out of a possible 100, while the Tesla scored 57.

The issue of driver assistance systems has been growing in importance after a number of fatal accidents in recent years.

Matters are also not helped with cases such as when a Canadian man in September was charged by Alberta police after he and his passenger slept in fully reclined seats (see above picture) whilst their Tesla drove along a highway in autonomous mode at speeds of more than 140kph (86mph).

Safety issues

It should be noted that Tesla’s Autopilot has also previously been criticised by the US National Transportation Safety Board for allowing drivers to turn their attention from the road.

American safety regulators have investigated 15 crashes since 2016 involving Tesla vehicles equipped with Autopilot.

In March last year, a US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report concluded that a fatal Tesla crash in March found that Autopilot was engaged for 10 seconds before the crash.

The roof of the Tesla Model X was sheared off and its 50-year-old driver was killed when the vehicle drove under the trailer of a semi truck that was crossing its path in March 2019.

Are we ready for ready for driverless transport?

That March incident had similarities to a May 2016 crash in which a Model S also drove under the trailer of a semi truck crossing its path. That crash found that autopilot had failed to detect the white trailer against a bright sky.

Autonomous driving

Yet despite these concerns, the battle over driver assistance systems and autonomous driving is heating up.

In July this year, Elon Musk said that Tesla is “very close” to achieving level 5 autonomous driving technology.

For those that don’t know, level 5 is the holy grail of autonomous driving technology, as level 5 vehicles will not require human intervention, and need for a human drivers is eliminated.

Indeed, it is said that level 5 cars won’t even have steering wheels or acceleration/braking pedals.

These cars will be free from geofencing, and will be able to drive anywhere, and do anything that normal car with a human driver can do.

Tesla cars currently operate at a level-two Autopilot, which requires the driver to remain alert and ready to act, with hands on the wheel.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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