Consumer Reports is calling the automatic lane-change attribute on Tesla’s Navigate on Autopilot “much less capable ” than an individual driver and cautioned it could pose safety risks.
The consumer advocacy organization posted its review Wednesday about the newest edition 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 into off-ramp, such as 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 must allow this feature, which provides permission to the vehicle to create its own lane changes. If not enabled, the system asks the driver before moving over, to confirm the lane change. Automatic lane changes can be canceled at any time.
The system was touted as a means to make driving less stressful and enhance safety. In practice, the system had startling 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 trunk better than the average driver.
The CR reviewers found Navigate on Autopilot lagged behind human driving skills and engaged in problematic behavior, like cutting off cars and passing on the right. CR drivers often had to take over to prevent the system from making bad decisions.
Because of this, the system increases tension and doesn’t enhance safety, Fisher said, before asking, “So what is the point of the feature? ”
The automatic lane-change attribute reviewed by Consumer Reports isn’t the default setting for Autopilot, Tesla notes. It’s an option which needs drivers to remove the default setting. Tesla also argues that drivers using Navigate on Autopilot properly have successfully 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 Tesla has many warnings which the driver must be alert and ready to take over at any given moment.
“Our concern is that if you’re not alert (or ready to take over) you could be put into a tricky situation,” he said.
The bigger concern for all systems like these is the driver will place too much confidence into it, Fisher said. The automatic lane-change feature might not be great enough for drivers to let down their guard yet. If Tesla improves this system, even just a tiny bit, the risk of complacency and too much confidence rises.
And that’s problematic because drivers still must be ready to take over. “Just watching automation is a more difficult human task than driving the vehicle,” he said.
CR asserts that a successful driver-monitoring system would mitigate this threat. DMS is typically a camera together with software designed to track a driver’s focus and pick up on cognitive problems that could result in an accident, such as nausea.
DMS are found in certain BMW models with an ADAS system named DriverAssist Plus, the new 2020 Subaru Outback and Cadillacs 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 limit the usage of Autopilot and install a more effective system to verify driver involvement in response to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board on the fatal March 2019 crash of a Tesla Model 3 with a semi-trailer at Delray Beach, Fla..
Last year, CR gave GM’s Super Cruise the top spot in its first-ever standing of partially automated driving systems since it is the very best at striking a balance between technical capabilities and ensuring drivers 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 safety, Fisher noted.
CR evaluated four systems: Super Cruise on the Cadillac CT6, Autopilot on Tesla Model S, X and 3 versions, ProPilot Assist on Infiniti QX50 and Nissan Leaf, and Pilot Assist on Volvo XC40 and XC60 vehicles. The organization said it picked these systems since theyrsquo;re considered the most competent and well-known in the business.
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