Fatal ‘Driverless’ Tesla Crash Raises Concern

Fatal ‘Driverless’ Tesla Crash Raises Concern

Tesla came under renewed scrutiny Thursday after a report that its cars could be tricked into driving without anyone sitting behind the wheel, as two senators called for a vigorous federal investigation into a fatal crash in Texas.

The accident, which killed two people, was related to a Tesla Model S that caught fire after crashing into a tree late on Saturday near Houston. Local police said investigators found no one in the driver’s seat.

Transport Minister Pete Buttigieg said Thursday that transport regulators investigating the accident “are still gathering the facts,” adding that investigators have been “in contact” with law enforcement and the carmaker.

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“This is an important time to stress that a lot of automated driver assistance systems continue to depend on the expectation of an attentive driver behind the wheel,” said Buttigieg.

The developments add to questions about the high-flying electric car maker driven by Mercurial Elon Musk, who said earlier this week that data records show Autopilot was not involved during the Texas crash.

On its website, Tesla describes autopilot as a driver improvement system that, despite its name, requires a human factor.

“Autopilot enables your car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane,” the website says. “Current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”

The magazine said on its website on Thursday that Consumer Reports engineers “easily tricked” Tesla’s autopilot into driving without anyone sitting in the driver’s seat, “a scenario that would pose a great danger if it were repeated on public roads.”

Consumer Reports expressed shock at how easy it was to trick autopilot. She added that this shows that “driver monitoring systems need to work harder to prevent drivers from using the systems in potentially dangerous ways.”

In his test, a Consumer Reports researcher placed a weight on the steering wheel and moved it to the passenger seat without loosening the seat belt.

In his test, a Consumer Reports researcher placed a weight on the steering wheel and moved it to the passenger seat without loosening the seat belt.

“There were no warnings that no one was sitting in the seat, no one was holding the steering wheel and no one was looking at the road,” Consumer Reports’ Jake Fisher said of the test on a Tesla Model Y SUV, which was videotaped.

“It continued to drive with no warnings to the driver to stay engaged. We were surprised how easy it was to defeat the insufficient safeguards.”

The magazine compared Tesla to cars built by General Motors, Subaru and other automakers that use camera-based systems to track the driver’s eye movements and ensure the vehicles are not unmanned.

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