It’s frighteningly easy to trick Tesla Autopilot into working with an empty driver seat
Tesla’s Autopilot feature sounds safe and neat in theory: The vehicle has primary driving duty while the driver sits — alert and present, ready to take over. Except that it also can be made to work without a driver.
Following a fatal Texas car crash on April 17, Consumer Reports decided to see if it could trick a Tesla into staying on Autopilot without someone in the driver’s seat, their hands on the wheel. With weights adding a little resistance to the steering wheel and the driver’s seat belt still buckled, the vehicle remained on Autopilot and kept driving.
“In our evaluation, the system not only failed to make sure the driver was paying attention, but it also couldn’t tell if there was a driver there at all,” CR’s senior director of auto testing Jake Fisher said in the report, noting that other auto companies have models which verify the driver’s attention.
Tesla did not respond to CR’s request for comment — and in fact shut down its PR office in late 2020 — while CEO Elon Musk maintains that Autopilot was off in the Model S that crashed in Texas. Watch the full demonstration above.