European New Car Assessment Program Scores Tesla's Autopilot Poorly in Safety Test

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【Summary】The European safety assessment ranked Tesla’s Autopilot system in sixth place out of 10 because it failed to keep drivers engaged.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Oct 05, 2020 7:00 AM PT
European New Car Assessment Program Scores Tesla's Autopilot Poorly in Safety Test

Tesla's Autopilot system is extremely controversial. Owners and consumers love the system because it offers features no other vehicle on the market does. Having a vehicle that can practically drive itself in a few environments is astounding, a technological marvel for today.

Tesla's Autopilot Gets Poor Marks

Then, there are the legislators and safety experts that aren't too keen on the system. They claim, rightfully so, that's it's dangerous. It hasn't been fully tested and, no one really knows what it's capable of, and Tesla seems to be using owners as beta testers. Additionally, from all of the videos on the internet of drivers sleeping behind the wheel, it's clear that owners abuse the system.

Well, another blow to Tesla's Autopilot system recently came from a safety test that was conducted by the European New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) and the U.K.'s insurance group Thatcham Research. As Reuters reports, Autopilot ranked fairly low in the test, finishing in sixth place out of 10. According to the testers, the issue with the system is that it fails to keep drivers engaged.

The two organizations tested the Autopilot system on the Tesla Model 3. When it came to tests that looked at the system's ability to maintain a driver's focus on the road, it scored a score of just 36. As a reference, the Mercedes-Benz GLE's system earned a score of 85 when it came to driver engagement. As the outlet points out, the majority of other vehicles in the test scored at least 70 for driver engagement.

Other Issues With Autopilot

Beyond that, the tests found that Autopilot did well in instances where drivers didn't need to step in. The system earned a score of 87 for vehicle assistance and 95 for safety backup. Unfortunately, the good ratings are part of why Tesla's Autopilot system is dangerous. It makes drivers believe that they're not needed, leading them to believe that it's OK to fall asleep behind the wheel, check their phone, or read a book while driving.

"Unfortunately, there are motorists that believe they can purchase a self-driving car today. This is a dangerous misconception that sees too much control handed to vehicles that are not ready to cope with all situations," said Matthew Avery, a Euro NCAP board member and research director at Thatcham Research.

Additionally, there's one major issue with Tesla's Autopilot system – its name. No other automaker has "auto" in the name of its semi-autonomous system and few other market its system as being able to handle the majority of driving tasks on the road. The name, according to Reuters, gives consumers a misconception of its capabilities. It's not a fully autonomous system, but the name can be confusing for consumers. While there are zero fully autonomous vehicles on the road today, Tesla has an optional "Full Self-Driving Capability" package.

The organizations aren't the only ones that have had issues with Tesla's Autopilot system. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has criticized the system before, claiming that it allows drivers to drive when distracted. Since 2016, regulators have investigated 15 crashes involving Tesla's Autopilot system, claims Reuters. With regulators in both America and Europe calling Autopilot out for having issues, it's clear that Tesla needs to do something to update it.

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