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Tesla's Latest Autopilot Update Could Be Dangerous

Electric Car / 9 Comments

Consumer Reports highlights some alarming safety concerns about Tesla's automatic lane changing system.

Tesla rolled out its latest Autopilot update last month that allows certain models to automatically change lanes without any driver intervention using Tesla's Navigate on Autopilot system. It's available as a software update for Tesla owners who purchased Enhanced Autopilot or Full Self-Driving Capability. The automaker says it's an attempt to make driving "more seamless," but an in-depth assessment by Consumer Reports has found has some alarming safety issues.

To use the feature, a driver must first turn it on to enable the car to make automatic lane changes. A driver can cancel an automated lane change that's in progress at any time by using the turn-signal stalk, braking, or by holding the steering wheel in place. However, Consumer Reports found that Navigate on Autopilot "lagged far behind a human driver's skill set." During testing, the autonomous feature cut off cars without leaving enough space and passed other cars in ways that violate state laws.

"The system's role should be to help the driver, but the way this technology is deployed, it's the other way around," says Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' senior director of auto testing. "It's incredibly nearsighted. It doesn't appear to react to brake lights or turn signals, it can't anticipate what other drivers will do, and as a result, you constantly have to be one step ahead of it."

Tesla's claims that the vehicle's three rearward-facing cameras can detect fast-approaching objects from the rear better than the average driver can, but Consumer Reports found the opposite to be true as the system "had trouble responding to vehicles that approach quickly from behind" and would "often cut off a vehicle that is going a much faster speed since it doesn't seem to sense the oncoming car until it's relatively close." When merging into heavy traffic, Consumer Reports also found that the system applied the brakes to create space behind the follow car, cutting off the car behind the Tesla as a result.

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According to Electrek, Tesla has logged over 9 million lane changes mostly without issue, but it's still important for drivers to be attentive and be ready to take back control. A photo shared by a Model 3 owner on Twitter illustrates why this is important, as the Navigate on Autopilot system suggested a lane change on a single lane road that would have sent the car directly into oncoming traffic.

The picture shows the Model 3 is driving on a two-lane, two-way undivided road, but Tesla's Navigate on Autopilot is suggesting a move to the left lane even though there's no vehicle to pass and there's an oncoming semi-truck in the left lane.

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