Tesla’s new lane-changing feature is far worse than humans at changing lanes and does so in ways that violates state laws, according to a new report from Consumer Reports today.
As a result, it creates safety risks, CR says.
“We found that Navigate on Autopilot lagged far behind a human driver’s skill set,” Consumer Reports says. “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.”
Even worse, Navigate on Autopilot doesn’t react to brake lights or turn signals.
The dangers are obvious: if someone is braking in the lane you’re changing into, you’ll be at risk of rear-ending them. Alternatively, if the driver ahead of you is also moving into your desired lane, or a driver in the next lane over is planning to move into your desired lane, collisions can ensue.
Tesla recently enabled a new level of self-driving, allowing some of its cars to automatically change lanes if owners agree and enable the setting. While drivers can cancel turns the car initiates if they choose, they need to be actively monitoring the car.
Tesla says that over 500,000 miles have already been driven with the new lane changing feature and that, used properly, it is safe.
It’s important to note that not all Tesla drivers are experiencing the same level of issues.
“My experience isn’t this bad but I certainly am paying attention when doing it,” says Robert Scoble, chief strategy officer at Infinite Retina, who has driven thousands of miles on autopilot in his Tesla Model 3.
Consumer Reports has something of a history with Tesla.
The company famously scored the Model S higher than any other vehicle it had ever tested, then dropped the car due to reliability concerns, only to bounce on and off of Consumer Reports’ recommended lists. The Model 3 has seen some of the same yo-yo effect.
At least one of the things that Consumer Reports faults Tesla for is something I would not consider unsafe: passing on the right. In some cases, slower drivers drive in the fast or passing lane, and it’s perfectly okay to pass them on the right as long as you do so safely and legally.
But another is problematic:
“One area of particular concern is Tesla’s claims that the vehicle’s three rearward-facing cameras can detect fast-approaching objects from the rear better than the average driver can,” Consumer Reports says. “Our testers found the opposite to be true in practice.”
Ultimately, the issues that CR is seeing impact investor and consumer confidence in Tesla’s ability to enable full self-driving capability, which Elon Musk promised by some time next year.
That innovation depends on massive amounts of data gathered from Tesla’s existing fleet, and AI breakthroughs in autonomous driving, and is key to Tesla delivering sales growth .. . something the company does not enable through advertising.
Perhaps in response, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted a wink emoji.