We wrote earlier this week about a Tesla crash in Texas in which the car may or may not have been driving itself, although the driver’s seat was apparently unoccupied.
It’s still not clear if Tesla’s Autopilot feature was activated or otherwise played a part in the crash.
However, it does appear that while Autopilot is supposed to be set up so that it can’t engage unless a human is in the driver’s seat, it can be tricked.
Consumer Reports simply hung a weighted chain from the steering wheel to simulate the weight of a driver’s hand on the wheel and had the human driver slide into the passenger seat.
Competing systems made by other OEMs are set up to not only make sure a human is in the seat but also is looking at the road.
CR used a Model Y, but the Autopilot system available on that model is essentially the same as the one available on the Model S. A Model S was the car involved in the crash in Texas.
While this test won’t clear up exactly what happened in Texas, it certainly shows that it’s possible for Autopilot to operate without a human in the driver’s seat — even though that’s supposed to be NOT possible.
At the very least, Tesla has a safety loophole to address.