Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Tesla’s Autopilot and other self-driving systems receive a ‘low’ rating from a well-known safety organization

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The group that checks how safe cars are, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, looked at fancy driver assistance systems like Tesla Autopilot. They found out these systems weren’t very good.

These systems use different tools to help drivers keep their car in the right lane and avoid hitting other cars. Usually, they only work on highways. Some even let drivers take their hands off the steering wheel, but they still need to watch the road and other cars.

Out of the 14 systems tested, 11 got a “bad” rating, including Tesla’s Autopilot. The “Full Self Driving” system from Tesla also got a bad rating. Even though it’s called “Full Self Driving,” it doesn’t actually drive the car itself. Unlike Autopilot and most other systems, it’s meant for city streets.

The president of the Insurance Institute, David Harkey, said these systems might make long drives seem easier, but they don’t make driving safer. He said some big crashes have happened because these systems didn’t have the right safety measures.

The government doesn’t have rules for these systems yet. That’s why the Insurance Institute started rating them. Harkey said they wanted to fill this gap in rules, so car companies make safer systems and people understand what they’re buying.

Most of the systems got in trouble for not making sure drivers paid attention while the car drove itself. The Institute said none of the systems did a good job of watching if the driver was paying attention.

Some systems let drivers take their hands off the steering wheel for a while. Testers checked if the system could tell when the driver needed to take control quickly. They did this by holding something like a phone to see if the system noticed the driver’s hands weren’t ready to steer.

Nissan, one of the car companies, said they’re looking at the results and will work with the Institute for safety.

The Institute also looked at how these systems warned drivers to pay attention. Seven of them didn’t give two different warnings within 15 seconds when the driver wasn’t paying attention.

Test drivers also checked what happened if the driver couldn’t drive anymore while using the system. They worried the car might keep going fast without anyone controlling it. If the driver didn’t start paying attention after being warned, the car should slow down and call for help. Only one system, GM’s Super Cruise, did that right.

GM, the company that makes Super Cruise, said reports like this one are important for making safer systems.

Since these systems aren’t safety features, they shouldn’t work if other safety features are turned off. Only a few systems followed this rule, the Institute said.

Ford, another car company, said their system reminds drivers to wear seatbelts and that cars using their system are less likely to swerve out of their lane.

The Institute will keep checking these systems to see if they get better with updates.

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