According to Consumer Reports, a consumer advocacy organization, Tesla's new automatic lane change feature does not perform well and can post a safety risk to other drivers on the road. In the test conducted by the organization, it was found that the 'Navigate on Autopilot' feature was less competent in comparison to human drivers. It was observed that the system kept cutting off other cars in traffic and did not leave enough gap. Jake Fisher, Senior Director of Auto Testing said that Tesla's automatic lane-change feature does not react to brake lights or turn signals. Not only this, but it was not able to anticipate what other drivers are going to do. He added that the system was 'incredibly nearsighted' and that one has to constantly be one-step-ahead of it.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently said in a statement that the company is going to have fully self-driving cars ready by 2021. The recent tests conducted by Consumer Reports raises questions on this claim and also on the safety of the carmaker's autopilot feature. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, last week, said that Tesla's Autopilot was used during a crash in March in Florida which resulted in the death of a person. The crash was a result of the system as well as the driver failing to avoid hitting a tractor-trailer which turned left in the path of a Model 3. A similar incident was reported back in 2016 as well.
In response, Tesla said that drivers who use Navigate on Autopilot properly have travelled millions of miles and safely executed millions of automated lane changes. The company says drivers must opt for the system by selecting Navigate for Autopilot, which replaces the default setting that requires a driver to confirm a lane change by pushing the turn signal lever. 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.
In April, Tesla announced a software update that enabled Navigate on Autopilot, and Consumer Reports tested its Model 3 after the update. The magazine said it drove on highways across Connecticut, where its test track is located. Multiple testers reported that the system cut too closely in front of other cars and passed other vehicles on the right of a divided highway with two lanes in each direction.
A Connecticut law enforcement official told the magazine that passing on the right was improper in the state and could bring a ticket. In addition, the system also didn't return to the right lane after passing, which also could draw a traffic citation in the state, the magazine said. "Tesla is showing what not to do on the path toward self-driving cars: release increasingly automated driving systems that aren't vetted properly,'' said David Friedman, a former acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who now is vice president of advocacy at Consumer Reports.