Tesla is probably the most accomplished car manufacturer in the world when it comes to futuristic innovations. Over the years, Tesla has become synonymous with mainly electric vehicles and their tech-laden features. One of the most prominent and futuristic features found in their cars is the Autopilot system. But time and again, Tesla’s much-talked-about autopilot feature has come under scrutiny after certain incidents have happened, citing that it isn’t completely foolproof.
Recently, two people were killed in a fatal crash in Texas when a Tesla Model S with no one in the driver’s seat crashed into a tree and burst into flames.
The accident is currently under investigation and the latest developments have some interesting findings. The Consumer Reports team said they successfully – and repeatedly – tricked the car into driving their test track with no one in the driver’s seat. Using a weighted chain attached to the steering wheel to simulate the pressure of the driver’s hands, two Consumer Reports researchers were able to use the steering wheel dial on a Tesla Model Y to accelerate from a full stop, and then “drive” around on a closed-course test track for several miles.
“The car drove up and down the half-mile lane of our track, repeatedly, never noting that no one was in the driver’s seat, never noting that there was no one touching the steering wheel, never noting there was no weight on the seat,” Jake Fisher, CR’s senior director of auto testing, said in a statement. “It was a bit frightening when we realized how easy it was to defeat the safeguards, which we proved were clearly insufficient. Let me be clear: Anyone who uses Autopilot on the road without someone in the driver seat is putting themselves and others in imminent danger,” Fisher says.
The victims were found in the front passenger seat and in the back seat of the vehicle, leading police to believe nobody was in the driver’s seat. However, Tesla boss Elon Musk said that “data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled”. “Moreover, standard Autopilot would require lane lines to turn on, which this street did not have,” Mr Musk tweeted.
It is a widely regarded fact that nothing can replace the driver’s instincts, even if you bring in a comprehensive set of electronics coupled with a horde of sensors, radars and cameras.