Tesla’s poor track record of keeping drivers engaged while Autopilot is on cost the automaker significant points in Consumer Reports’ latest ranking of driver-assistance systems.
The magazine’s second-ever ranking of the software systems included 17 brands this year, up from just 7 in 2018, and Cadillac’s Super Cruise from General Motors still reigns supreme. Tesla’s in second place again, though with a larger gap this time between it and first place, followed by Lincoln and Ford’s Co-Pilot and Audi.
That’s not to say Tesla fell short. In many of Consumer Reports’ five testing categories, Elon Musk’s automaker took top honors.
“When it comes to lane-keeping assist, Tesla did the best in our tests,” Consumer Reports said, and when the system loses too much road information like lane lines, it very loudly notifies the driver to take over. “Almost all of the other systems we evaluated don’t make any noise to indicate that the system is stopping its steering,” the magazine said.
But things went downhill from there. Tesla tied for last place in driver engagement and clarity around when the system is safe to use.
“We evaluated the systems in terms of how clearly they communicate in real time about when drivers should — and should not — be using the technology,” Consumer Reports said, an ominous note that comes at a pivotal times for Tesla’s accelerated push into autonomy.
The company this month released a beta version of its “full self-driving” package, an expensive add-on to Autopilot that — despite its name — is not fully self-driving, prompting criticism from within the industry and a warning from federal regulators. Autopilot has been involved in more than a dozen crashes in recent years, some of which have been fatal.
“Automakers also need to realize that the more capable they develop a system in terms of driver assistance, the greater the chances are that the driver might tune out and try to leave the driving to the car,” Kelly Funkhouser, head of Consumer Reports’ connected and automated vehicle testing, said. “That’s why driver monitoring is so critical, and should be an essential tool of any good active driving-assistance system going forward.”