Consumer Reports knocks Tesla’s Navigate on Autopilot, calls new feature ‘far less competent’ than a human driver



Consumer Reports is calling the automatic lane-change attribute on Tesla’s Navigate on Autopilot “far less competent” than a human driver and cautioned it could pose security risks.

The consumer advocacy organization posted its review Wednesday on the most recent version of Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system.

Navigate on Autopilot is an active guidance system that’s supposed to navigate a vehicle from a highway on-ramp to off-ramp, including interchanges and making lane changes. Once drivers enter a destination into the navigation system, they could empower “Navigate on Autopilot” for this trip.

Tesla pushed out a software upgrade last month to allow for automatic lane changes. Drivers need to enable this feature, which provides the vehicle permission to make its own lane changes. If not enabled, the system asks the driver to validate the lane change before moving over. Automatic lane changes can be canceled at any time.

Enhance safety and the system has been touted as a means to make driving less stressful. In practice, the machine had behavior, Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports told TechCrunch.

“It doesn’t take very long behind the wheel with this feature on to realize it’s not quite ready for prime time,” Fisher said. CR said one of the more troubling concerns were failures of Tesla’s three rearward-facing cameras to discover fast-approaching objects from the rear better than the average motorist.

The CR reviewers found Navigate on Autopilot participated in behavior such as cutting off cars and passing on the right and lagged behind human driving skills. CR drivers often had to take over from making poor decisions, to stop the machine.

As a result, the system increases tension and doesn’t improve security, Fisher said, before asking “So what is the point of the feature? ”

The automated lane shift reviewed by Consumer Reports is not the default setting for Autopilot, Tesla notes. It’s a choice which requires drivers to remove the default setting. Tesla also argues that drivers using Navigate on Autopilot correctly have driven millions of miles and safely made countless automated lane changes.

While Fisher acknowledged the default setting, he claims that isn’t the issue. He notes that the Tesla has many warnings which the driver has to be alert and prepared to take over at any given moment.

“Our concern is that if you’re not alert (or prepared to take over) you could be placed into a tricky situation,” he said.

The bigger concern for all systems like these is that the driver will place too much trust into it, Fisher said. The automatic lane-change feature may not be great enough for motorists to let down their guard yet. If Tesla enhances this system, even just a little bit, the risk of complacency and too much trust rises.

And that’s problematic because drivers still has to be prepared to take over. “Just watching automation is a harder human activity than driving the vehicle,” he said.

CR asserts that an effective driver tracking system would mitigate this threat. DMS is typically a camera combined with software designed to monitor a driver’s focus and pick up on cognitive issues that could cause an accident like drowsiness.

DMS are found in certain BMW models with an ADAS system named DriverAssist Plus, the new 2020 Subaru Outback and Cadillac’s equipped with its Super Cruise system.

This isn’t the first time CR has increased concerns about Autopilot. Last week, the consumer advocacy organization called on Tesla to restrict the use of Autopilot and set up a more powerful system to confirm driver involvement in response to a preliminary report by National Transportation Safety Board on the deadly March 2019 crash of a Tesla Model 3 with a semi-trailer at Delray Beach, Fla..

This past year, CR gave GM’s Super Cruise the top spot in its own first-ever standing of partly automated driving systems because it’s the best at striking a balance between technical capabilities and ensuring motorists are paying attention and operating the vehicle safely. Tesla followed in the ranking not because it was less capable, but because of its approach to security, Fisher noted.

CR assessed four systems: Super Cruise on the Cadillac CT6, Autopilot on Tesla Model S, X and 3 models, ProPilot Assist on Infiniti QX50 and Nissan Leaf, and Pilot Assist on Volvo XC40 and XC60 vehicles. The organization said it chose these systems because they’re considered the most capable and well-known in the business.

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