After a recent double fatality involving a Tesla automobile, safety groups, and Tesla fans and critics alike, have amped up the discussion around the company's driver-assist systems. The misleadingly named "Autopilot" from Tesla and its future product named "Full Self-Driving," are both coming under increased scrutiny as Tesla further develops its "self-driving" or more aptly named, "self-crashing," technology.
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To illustrate just how easy it is to defeat the simple mechanical sensors Tesla uses to prohibit improper use of Autopilot, Consumer Reports grabbed the closest bike lock and some rolls of tape to defeat the crude safety lockouts. Simply dangling any weight from the wheel tricks the Model Y's rudimentary sensors into thinking an operator has his or her hands on the wheel.
Senior tester and mechanical engineer, Jake Fisher, quickly and easily brought the Tesla Model Y the group owns up to speed on a closed test course without any occupant in the "driver's seat." The simple way the Tesla safety systems are defeated is shocking.
As the video demonstrates, Tesla has no meaningful safeguards to prohibit the abuse of Tesla driver-assist technology. The safeguard that does exist is practically "stone-age" technology compared to what most other automakers now employ to monitor driver attention and alertness.
As you can see from the video, it is quite simple for a numbskull Tesla owner/occupant to defeat the primitive safeguards Tesla uses to protect the public from improper occupant use of Autopilot.
Autopilot has been implicated in many crashes of many different types of Tesla vehicles into fixed objects, slow-moving semi-trailers, police vehicles, firetrucks, and other first-responder vehicles. The real question isn't why is Autopilot malfunctioning, but rather, why aren't Tesla's automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and other now commonplace safety systems taking over before these crashes occur? Where are America's multiple highway safety groups on this issue, and why haven't they taken decisive action?
You can view a list of some of the notable Tesla crashes related to the questionable performance of the brand's safety systems below.
March 2021: Another Tesla Hits Another Semi From the Side - This Time It Looks Like a Model Y
August 2020: Tesla Operated By Full Self Crashing System Hits Two Parked First Responder Vehicles - Again
July 2020 - Police: Tesla On Autopilot Hits Not One, But TWO Parked First Responder Vehicles
January 2020: Second Crash In One Month Of A Tesla Into A Parked Firetruck Results In Fatality
December 2019: Tesla Model 3 On Autopilot Hits Yet Another Police Vehicle - Why Won't They Stop?
August 2018: Third Tesla Crashes Into Back of Firetruck - That's Four Crashes Into Emergency Vehicles This Year
May 2018: Another Tesla On Autopilot Hits Another Emergency Vehicle - You Can't Make This Stuff Up
January 2018: Tesla Police Blotter News - Tesla Driver Hits Parked Firetruck - Blames Autopilot
July 2016: Understanding the fatal Tesla accident on Autopilot and the NHTSA probe
John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin