Even if you follow Tesla’s instructions with regards to their Autopilot technology to the letter, could your car still get into an accident during perfect weather and road conditions?
That’s something vehicle safety experts at Tatcham Research wanted to find out, which is why they devised an experiment that would put a Tesla Model S in a rather difficult, yet perfectly plausible emergency situation.
The Tesla performed as expected during an initial test, which involved coming to a complete halt after the car in front started braking. Autopilot was engaged and the Model S did exactly what it should have done with no input from the driver.
It’s the following test that proved problematic for the all-electric saloon, when journalists wanted to see how the Model S would react if the car in front suddenly changed lanes in order to avoid a stationary vehicle. While the Tesla did start braking, it did not change lanes so as to avoid the stationary obstacle.
Even though it takes more than just one test to talk us into this type of scenario being an Achilles Heel for Tesla’s Autopilot, we wouldn’t blame you if you thought it was something worth worrying about.
However, questions about the test’s validity have also been raised, where CarTests points to how the system in this particular Model S may not have recognized its surroundings as being a multi-lane road – possibly because the car only traveled a few hundred meters before the impact. Also, the sat-nav system may not have even registered that test track as a real roadway.
If either of these possibilities turns out to be a factor here, then it would be only logical for the Model S to not steer clear of the object ahead, seen as how that would basically mean running itself off the road.
As for scanning the road ahead and realizing there’s a stationary car there even before the vehicle ahead changes lanes, that’s a whole different story. What’s certain though is that semi-autonomous technology is far from what anybody should consider a “finished product”. So legally speaking, the driver of the Model S should have been the one reacting to this situation and applying the brakes – not the Autopilot system.