Go Figure, Report Says Tesla’s Autopilot Is Far Less Competent Than Human Drivers

tesla autopilot 2
Tesla is famous for its immensely powerful electric cars and their ever-increasing range thanks to advances in battery chemistry, motor design, and software updates. The company is also famous -- for better or worse -- for its Autopilot software, which allows the vehicle to take over the task of driving, and even changing lanes in certain instances.

However, new analysis out from Consumer Reports suggests that one subset of Autopilot -- Navigate on Autopilot -- is somewhat half-baked in its current iteration and needs a lot more work. As we've previously reported, Navigate on Autopilot is the latest step towards full autonomy for Tesla vehicles.

The feature allows a Model 3, Model X or Model S to make lane changes on its own without driver input while on the highway. The vehicle will even activate the turn signals (something that we can't always say for many BMW drivers) as it changes lanes. If the driver doesn't like a suggest lane change, he or she can manually cancel it before the car acts on its own.

tesla model s

Consumer Reports says that Navigate on Autopilot in practice "lagged far behind a human driver's skill set". In fact, the publication says that Navigate on Autopilot often performed moving violations that would get you a ticket in some jurisdictions (like passing vehicles on the right) and that it often cut other cars off in the process.

“It’s incredibly nearsighted," said Consumer Reports' Director of Auto Testing, Jake Fisher. "It doesn’t appear to react to brake lights or turn signals, it can’t anticipate what other drivers will do, and as a result, you constantly have to be one step ahead of it.”

In other words, it doesn’t practice “defensive driving” like a human would. In addition, the system seems like it would not only be annoying Tesla drivers, but also other drivers when engaged. “It is reluctant to merge in heavy traffic, but when it does, it often immediately applies the brakes to create space behind the follow car—this can be a rude surprise to the vehicle you cut off.”

Even though Autopilot is billed as self-driving, the "driver" still needs to have his or her hands on the steering wheel, or else the system will nag you or disengage completely. Even though Tesla upsells its “Full Self-Driving Capability” on its website as a $6,000 option, the title is really misleading to say the least.

Needless to say, if Navigate on Autopilot can’t even get things like this right – not to mention its penchant for running into the side of semi-trailers – we have serious doubts the claims from Tesla CEO Elon Musk that fully autonomous coast-to-coast Autopilot trips will happen later this year.