Tesla's semi-automated Autopilot system is under scrutiny. Picture: REUTERS
Tesla's semi-automated Autopilot system is under scrutiny. Picture: REUTERS

Bengaluru — Influential US magazine Consumer Reports said last week that its engineers were able to operate a Tesla vehicle without anyone in the driver’s seat, but the system failed to send out a warning or indicate that the driver’s seat was empty.

The engineers tested Tesla Model Y as investigators probe an accident in which two men died after their Tesla Model S, which was believed to be operating without anyone in the driver’s seat, crashed into a tree on April 17 north of Houston.

Over several trips across half-mile closed test track, the Model Y automatically steered along painted lane lines, the magazine said.

“In our evaluation, the system not only failed to make sure the driver was paying attention, but it also couldn’t tell if there was a driver there at all,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of Consumer Reports’ automotive testing.

“Tesla is falling behind other carmakers such as GM and Ford that, on models with advanced driver assist systems, use technology to make sure the driver is looking at the road.”

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report also comes amid growing scrutiny over Tesla’s semi-automated driving system after recent accidents and as it is preparing to launch its updated “full self-driving” software to more customers.

Tesla’s Autopilot is a driver assistance system that handles some driving tasks and allows drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel at times, but Tesla says its features “require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous”.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the test was “concerning,” and it would take action if the issue posed a serious safety risk.

The agency reiterated that state laws hold the human driver responsible for the operation of their vehicles.



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