Tesla owners are not paying attention while using autopilot in the car, MIT study

  • A study conducted by MIT proves that Tesla owners using the autopilot feature are not paying attention to the road while driving
  • The study measured the glance rate of these autopilot drivers while looking at the road versus at other components including their smartphones
  • This study has recently appeared under the spotlight after several reported cases of malfunctioning of Tesla’s autopilot feature

Tesla Incorporated is another brainchild of Elon Musk, the famous American entrepreneur who dabbles extensively in sustainable opportunities for the planet. Tesla manufactures electric vehicles and is essentially branded as a clean energy company with its headquarters in Palo Alto, California, United States.

What is the autopilot feature?

Tesla’s autopilot feature has been highly talked about before its actual appearance in the specifications. According to the company, the autopilot feature will enable the driver to automatically steer the car, accelerate and brake within its lane. The car aims to enable this feature by functioning under the commands generated by a state of the art sensor and camera system. The cars are equipped with 8 external cameras, an artificial intelligence-powered computer and 12 external sensors.

Tesla currently manufactures a total of four car models with the autopilot feature, making it the first company in the current era to do so. The models being Tesla Model 3, Model S, Model X and Model Y. Although, the company has clearly stated that this autopilot feature only makes a self-drive experience partially possible and does not make the car fully autonomous. That means an attentive driver behind the wheel is still a necessity when out for a drive.

Origin of concerns regarding safety

Towards the end of August 2021, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration(NHTSA) launched an investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot system. This investigation came through after the collision of a Tesla vehicle using autopilot with a resting emergency service vehicle. Also so far, it’s noted that Teslas on autopilot are responsible for 11 accidents, resulting in 17 injuries and one death.

What is the MIT study all about?

A new study, conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), titled “A model for naturalistic glance behaviour around Tesla Autopilot disengagements” has confirmed the unsafe nature of this infamous autopilot feature.

The study was focused on monitoring Tesla Model S and X owners during their daily routine for about a year in the greater Boston area. During this course, researchers measured the “glance rates” for drivers looking elsewhere than the road while their cars were on autopilot mode. The scientists further compared these glance rates against non-auto pilot drivers placed under similar circumstances.

The findings of the study

The researchers found that indeed as expected, drivers using the autopilot feature turn out to become disengaged from the road as soon as the autopilot is switched on. Research proved the converse is also applicable that as soon as autopilot is switched off, the drivers turn their attention back to the road.

The study concluded that when autopilot is switched on, the drivers tend to look not only at their smartphones but also at the central touch screen of the vehicle which is useful for multimedia purposes such as switching on music and so on. This particular behaviour measured in terms of glance rate in a driver using autopilot is 22 per cent and the same immediately drops to 4 per cent as soon as autopilot is switched off. The MIT study has henceforth concluded that Tesla’s “Full-Self Driving” (FSD) system is not as safe and effective as founder Elon Musk claims.

Tesla’s response

Even with rising safety concerns, Tesla is still set to launch the newest version of this autopilot beta software, version 10.0.1. That being said, there’s a catch. Before availing of the beta features, drivers will have to be subjected to Tesla’s test which will use telemetry data to evaluate the driver’s attentive capacity over a 7-day period. It appears so that Musk has taken into consideration the Federal investigation and reports of accidents for the better.

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