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New Report Is Bad News for Tesla, Worse for Tesla Drivers

Tesla’s Navigate on Autopilot is proving more dangerous than not according to a consumer report.

This is not news any car owner wants to hear. It’s also not news the makers of Tesla wanted to learn, either because it hurts their bottom line. But, it is out there and it is not good news for automaker Tesla.

Tesla recently launched a new lane-changing feature, Navigate on Autopilot, that will allow some cars to autopilot a change of lanes for those who enable the feature on their own. Navigation on Autopilot is an included option on new Tesla’s. In April, an optional upgrade was made available for existing models. Older models must have the sensors installed that new Tesla cars have.

The Navigate on Autopilot allows drivers the ability to cancel turns, as long as they are monitoring the road. Upon activating Navigate on Autopilot, drivers are given an alert that reads, “You must continue to keep your hands on the wheel and monitor the vehicle’s surroundings.” However, the system won’t work once drivers take their hands off the wheel for any extended period.

In a new report released yesterday from Consumer Reports, Tesla’s latest lane-changing feature is performing far worse than expected. Specifically, they found Navigate on Autopilot to be worse than we, as individuals, are at changing lanes. The report also says Navigate on Autopilot does so in ways that are in violation of state laws.  

Consumer Reports says, “We found that Navigate on Autopilot lagged far behind a human driver’s skill set. The feature cut off cars without leaving enough space and even passed other cars in ways that violate state laws, according to several law enforcement representatives CR interviewed for this report.” Additionally, Navigate on Autopilot doesn’t react to fundamental signals from car lights, like turn signals and brake lights.

The potential for accidents is there. If someone is trying to pass you or is moving into your lane, you run the risk of a side swipe or worse. Should the driver in front of you brake, you risk a rear-end collision.

Says Consumer Reports Senior Director of Auto Testing, Jake Fisher, “The system’s role should be to help the driver, but the way this technology is deployed it’s the other way around. 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.”

Consumer Reports Vice President of Advocacy, David Friedman, issued a statement that says this feature isn’t all it promises. “The Navigate on Autopilot driver-assist feature overpromises and under-delivers, with lives on the line.”

His reference is to the fact that it only works when traveling along highways with no intersections, the monitoring with hands on the wheel and that drivers must select controls to make lane changes. Drivers are alerted to lane changes by the system right before they occur.

Other automakers, have cameras to do the monitoring. General Motors uses cameras to monitor drivers’ faces and eyes to see that they are focused on the road ahead while Navigate on Autopilot is engaged. Consumer Reports ranks GM’s Cadillac Super Cruise system as the highest among the driver assistance systems.

Tesla wants consumers to know that not all Tesla drivers are experiencing the same issues. The company says over 500,000 miles have already been driven using Navigate on Autopilot and that is is safe when used properly.

Do you use Navigate on Autopilot? Does someone you know and love own a Tesla? Tell us what you think about the system or about the report! Leave a note in the comments. You can also contact us for more information! Feel free to shoot us an email to Outreach@ConsiderTheConsumer.com, find us on TwitterFacebookInstagramLinkedIn, or even connect with us directly on our website!

About the Author: Aisha K. Staggers is a writer, lecturer, political analyst and literary agent. She appears almost weekly for “Staggers State of Things” on the Dr. Vibe Show. Her work has been published by Paper Magazine, AfroPunk, The Spool, GREY Journal, MTV News, HuffPost, Blavity, Atlanta Blackstar, For Harriet, New York Review of Books and a host of other first-run publications and syndicated outlets. Find her on Twitter @AishaStaggers. For more of her work, check out her page here!

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