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Tesla’s Autopilot recall patch is deemed ‘insufficient’ by Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports has labeled Tesla’s patch for its Autopilot recall of over 2 million cars “insufficient” based on early testing.

According to Kelly Funkhouser, the nonprofit organization’s assistant director of automotive technology, it is still feasible to conceal the cabin camera while using Autopilot, which means drivers may negate one of the two key ways the car checks whether they are paying attention to the road.

Furthermore, Funkhouser claims she saw no changes while activating or utilizing Autopilot’s signature function, Autosteer, outside of the controlled-access roads where Tesla claims the program is intended to be operated.

While the testing isn’t exhaustive, it demonstrates that issues about Tesla’s approach to driver monitoring—the technology at the center of the recall—remain unaddressed.

The organization, which has a long history of severely reviewing Tesla’s technology and automobiles, intends to do more testing in the coming weeks. Consumer Reports has not yet examined other modifications, such as more prominent visual warnings on the Model 3 car and Model Y SUV, according to Funkhouser, since it has only gotten the over-the-air software upgrade on its Model S sedan.

Tesla also adopted a suspension policy that disables Autopilot for one week if “improper usage” is detected, something Funkhouser claimed she did not observe during two 15- to 20-mile excursions.

The recall, which was announced last week, covers over 2 million vehicles in the United States and Canada and comes in the midst of a two-year investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It placed a strong emphasis on the autosteer function, which is intended to keep a vehicle centered in a lane on controlled-access highways, even around bends.

Tesla warns drivers to pay attention to the road and maintain their hands on the wheel when using Autosteer, and it checks this using a torque sensor in the steering wheel and, in newer models, an in-cabin camera. However, the NHTSA said in papers revealed this week that such checks were “insufficient to prevent misuse.”

Tesla does not, however, limit the usage of Autosteer to controlled-access highways. Instead, drivers may use Autosteer on other roadways as long as some basic prerequisites (such as visible lane markings) are satisfied. The NHTSA said that as part of the recall, Tesla will implement “additional checks upon engaging Autosteer, while using the feature outside controlled access highways, and when approaching traffic controls.”

Some owners were concerned that Tesla might restrict Autosteer to controlled-access roads, as Ford and General Motors do with their respective Blue Cruise and SuperCruise systems. As the update started to be sent out over the weekend, several people discussed ideas on online forums about how to prevent it by turning off Tesla’s cellular or Wi-Fi radios.

However, Funkhouser’s experiments indicate that such harsh procedures are not required. While Tesla emphasizes in the release notes for the most recent software update that the camera “can now determine driver inattentiveness and provide you with audible alerts to remind you to keep your eyes on the road when Autopilot is engaged,” she points out that this is the same language the company used when it first enabled cabin camera driver monitoring in 2021. And, despite Tesla’s claim in the release notes that it has “increased the strictness of driver attentiveness requirements when using Autosteer and approaching traffic lights and stop signs off-highway,” Funkhouser said those changes weren’t noticeable in her preliminary testing—in part because it’s difficult to know exactly what Tesla means to begin with.

All of this raises the question of whether or not Tesla altered the camera’s capacity to detect driver attention during the upgrade. The NHTSA refused to respond, instead directing queries to Tesla. (Tesla’s’sublicity department was dismantled years ago.)

“None of this is very prescriptive or explicit in terms of what it is they’re going to change,” Funkhouser said.

Eltrys Team
Author: Eltrys Team

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