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Autopilot promises to change how we drive, but this new technology is encountering a few speedbumps. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recently announced it is investigating Tesla’s Autopilot system after 11 reported crashes since 2018.
The vehicles were sitting with flashing lights. They also had road markers such as road cones or illuminated arrow boards to mark their location.
The watchdog agency is looking at both the Autopilot system and the car’s Traffic-Aware Cruise control which helps each Tesla match the speed of the vehicles around them.
The investigation focuses on how the autopilot system monitors both the car’s surroundings and the driver’s attentiveness. Specifically, investigators are focusing on the car’s object detection and avoidance system for items located on, or near, the roadway.
Also under scrutiny is Tesla’s advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) that serve to focus the driver’s attention on the road even when Autopilot is engaged. The system requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel to force them to pay attention while driving.
Earlier studies of the company’s ADAS found that it was easily fooled and slow to respond. Drivers could drape a weight over the steering wheel to fool the system into thinking a person was holding onto the wheel. The system also was slow to respond, taking up to 30 seconds to alert the driver that they took their hands off the wheel.