The goal of Tesla’s autopilot software is to eventually solve real-world AI that can perform unsupervised and generalized full self-driving. However, until the day comes when Teslas are able to drive anywhere in the world on their own, the EV maker has chosen to release autopilot software with increasing levels of driving proficiency.
And in accordance with this goal, in late 2020, Tesla released the next generation of the company’s full self-driving software called FSD Beta.
This software version is a significant architectural rewrite of Tesla’s Autopilot software and unlike previous iterations of Autopilot, requires merging all images coming from 8 cameras into a vector space that the vehicle uses to execute driving in the real world.
In simple terms, the new software creates a representation of the real world by piecing together images coming from the 8 cameras, and the vehicle uses this virtual representation of the real world to make driving decisions.
The new approach has allowed Tesla to enable vehicles to tackle more complex driving settings such as surface streets, roundabouts, U-turns, traffic lights, and unprotected left turns, which are currently impossible in any other vehicle except for Tesla.
Tesla initially released FSD Beta to the 3000 or so individuals in the company’s Early Access Program. However, that number has currently grown to more than 285,000 vehicles, and now the capability comes standard with any purchase of the full-self driving feature in the US.
Since FSD Beta’s initial rollout in late 2020, the software has seen several upgrades which have improved the smoothness and capabilities of the self-driving software.
Tesla’s last FSD update was FSD Beta 10.69. This iteration of FSD Beta was released at the end of August and has brought with it several improvements getting Tesla one step closer to the goal of having the software completely take over the driving task.
However, there is one organization that doesn’t seem at all impressed by all the advancements Tesla has been making to the autopilot software and that is Consumer Reports.
Consumer Reports, in its latest test of Active Driver Assist software by 12 manufacturers ranked Tesla number 7 writing “Tesla autopilot falls to midpack as other high-tech systems improve.”
In defense of this decision Senior Director of Auto Testing, Jake Fisher is quoted as saying “Tesla, once an innovator in ADA with its Autopilot system, fell from its second-place showing in 2020 to seventh this time around—about the middle of the pack. That’s because Tesla hasn’t changed Autopilot’s basic functionality much since it first came out, instead just adding more features to it.”
Continuing Fisher adds “After all this time, Autopilot still doesn’t allow collaborative steering and doesn’t have an effective driver monitoring system. While other automakers have evolved their ACC and LCA systems, Tesla has simply fallen behind.”
In its testing, Consumer Reports gave Tesla Autopilot 61 points out of a possible 100 falling far behind this year’s winner, Ford’s Blue Cruise which received 84 points.
And following Ford Blue Cruise Consumer Reports ranked Cadilac Super Cruise, Mercedes-Benz Driver Assistance, BMW Driving Assistance Professional, Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, and Volkswagen Travel Assist 2nd to 6th in that order.
NEWS: Consumer Reports has released a new report ranking 12 different driver assistance systems that they tested. Tesla ranked 7th overall.Report: https://t.co/gJEgURnUea pic.twitter.com/XQJsffsRyL— Sawyer Merritt (@SawyerMerritt) January 25, 2023
So how did Consumer Reports reach this hard-to-believe conclusion when all 6 driver assist softwares that ranked above Tesla are limited to the highway and lack some basic capabilities such as auto lane change let alone the ability to tackle complex driving situations?
Reading through Consumer Reports' methodology points us to 2 main reasons. The first is Consumer Reports arbitrarily narrowed the definition of Active Driver Assist software to Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist, meaning, the only driving functionalities that the organization tested were the ability to speed up and slow down on highways and the ability to keep the vehicle inside the lane similarly on highways.
And the second reason is Consumer Reports gave some simple software decisions like the length of time the Driver Assist Software allows you to take your hands off the steering wheel equal weight to the software’s fundamental ability to understand the environment around it and respond.
To learn more about the testing procedure you can read Consumer Reports’ full article. When seen through these testing limitations, Consumer Reports’ decision to rank Tesla Autopilot 7th becomes less egregious, however, in my opinion, these 2 fundamentally flawed assumptions discredit Consumer Reports’ Active Driver Assist ranking.
In the next few days, Tesla is slated to release FSD Beta v11 which is the first major update to the software in the past 6 months. FSD Beta v11 is expected to further solidify Tesla’s lead in the self-driving space.
And we will be sure to keep you posted once FSD Beta V11 drives start being shared. Until then, make sure to visit our site torquenews.com/Tesla regularly for the latest updates.
So what do you think? Are you disappointed by Consumer Reports’ assessment of Tesla Autopilot? Or do you agree with the organization’s testing results? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Image: Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.
For more information check out: Tesla Reports on Q4, 2022 Earnings - Beating Expectations
Tinsae Aregay has been following Tesla and The evolution of the EV space on a daily basis for several years. He covers everything about Tesla from the cars to Elon Musk, the energy business, and autonomy. Follow Tinsae on Twitter at @TinsaeAregay for daily Tesla news.