Trying to "hack" Tesla's Autopilot system is obviously not safe.
Up until this past Tuesday, for $199 you could buy what's called the "Autopilot Buddy," which is really nothing more than a small piece of magnetic plastic. Although it doesn't look like much, the Autopilot Buddy is an aftermarket device that attaches to a Tesla vehicle's steering wheel designed to fool the Autopilot System into thinking the driver's hands were on the steering wheel. It's even specifically marketed as a "Tesla autopilot nag reduction device." And now the NHTSA has deemed it unsafe and issued a cease and desist order.
"A product intended to circumvent motor vehicle safety and driver attentiveness is unacceptable," said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King. "By preventing the safety system from warning the driver to return their hands to the wheel, this product disables an important safeguard, and could put customers and other road users at risk."
The company behind Autopilot Buddy has until June 29 to respond to the NHTSA to certify that all US marketing, sales and distribution of the product has ended. As of now, however, the Autopilot Buddy has not been banned in international markets, though it's likely only a matter of time. So why would someone want to trick the Autopilot system in the first place? The Autopilot Buddy website claims the device is intended for "Track Use Only," further adding it "is not a safety device…and disabling key safety feature of any car is dangerous an ill-advised." In short, Autopilot Buddy is a hack device allowing owners to restore the Autosteer function, which Tesla has restricted since it was first released. If you still want to trick Autopilot, you can always use an orange.