And while Consumer Reports in the past has been quick to call out Tesla for what can sometimes seem like nonsensical reasons, it's hard to ignore a report that specifically centers on a feature with potentially grave consequences.
Last October, three years after the Autopilot was first deployed in what Tesla called a "public beta phase, " the company rolled out its Navigate on Autopilot feature that the Tesla said "guides a vehicle from a highway's on-ramp to off-ramp, including suggesting lane changes, navigating highway interchanges and taking exits", under active supervision by the driver. A driver can cancel an automated lane change that's in progress at any time by using the turn-signal stalk, braking, or holding the steering wheel in place.
However, Consumer Reports said that in tests it has conducted, it found that the feature cuts off other cars without leaving enough space.
When drivers choose the system, they are warned that it does not make the vehicle autonomous and that they have to remain in control, the company said.
"The system has trouble responding to vehicles that approach quickly from behind", explained Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' senior director of auto testing. Other issues included a failure to react to brake lights or turn signals, and the inability to anticipate the actions of other drivers.
Additionally, Consumer Reports cited Shiv Patel, an analyst at research firm ABI Research, who notes that while Tesla is further along with its autonomous driving technology than other automakers, the Navigate on Autopilot system's "current hardware does not have the computing power required to support full self-driving features". Navigate's lane-changing feature was updated last month to include an automatic lane change feature.
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CR reported that testers often had to cancel a pass that had been initiated by Autopilot-usually by applying steering force to move the vehicle back into the travel lane-when they felt that the maneuver would be unsafe. If the driver doesn't like a suggest lane change, he or she can manually cancel it before the vehicle acts on its own. Now that this can be disabled, the editors were more wary, cautioning that "it's still not a ideal system".
The updates included a feature called Navigate on Autopilot, which Consumer Reports found the lane changing system to be risky and perform potentially illegal manoeuvres. According to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board, the driver had turned on autopilot about 10 seconds before the March 1 crash. "[Automatic lane changing] isn't a convenience at all", Fisher said.
In a statement to CR, Tesla wrote "Our team consistently reviews data from instances when drivers took over while the feature has been in use, and has found that when used properly both versions of Navigate on Autopilot offer comparable levels of safety". We've also heard overwhelmingly from drivers in our Early Access Program that they like using the feature for road trips and during their daily commutes, and we're excited to release the option to the rest of the Tesla family.
There were even passes that violated state laws, officials said.
"My guess as to when we would think it's safe for somebody to essentially fall asleep and wake up at the destination is probably towards the end of next year", Musk said on the ARK Invest podcast a few weeks back. That, Consumer Reports now says, isn't as impressive as it sounds.