Amid reports of fatal crashes involving Tesla automobile, the company’s autopilot feature has come under increased scrutiny. A group of techies at Consumer Reports tricked a Tesla Model Y to drive on the electric carmakers driver assistance feature, without actually anyone in the drivers seat. Notably, Tesla claims Autopilot as a driver enhancement system that, despite its name, requires a human operator. “Autopilot enables your car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane,” the website says. “Current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”
The engineers tricked Tesla vehicle by placing a small, weighted chain on the steering wheel, to simulate the weight of a driver’s hand, and slid over into the front passenger seat without opening any of the vehicle’s doors, because that would disengage Autopilot, the report said on Thursday.
Using the same steering wheel dial, the engineers reached over and was able to accelerate the vehicle from a full stop.
“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,” says Jake Fisher, CR’s senior director of auto testing, who conducted the experiment.
“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.”
Last week, two people were killed in a fiery Tesla crash in Texas with no one in the driver’s seat. The fatal crash is under investigation. Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted earlier this week that data logs recovered from the crashed Model S “so far show Autopilot was not enabled”. Musk argued that it would not be possible to activate Autopilot on the road where the crash took place because of the lack of “painted lane lines”.