Tesla drivers become ‘inattentive’ when using autopilot, study finds

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Tesla could soon launch its latest FSD (full self-driving) autopilot to a large group of drivers, and US security officials are not very happy with it. They have reason to worry, according to a new MIT study seen by TechCrunch. Researchers studied the data at a glance and found that drivers become more inattentive when using Tesla’s autopilot system.

“Visual behavior patterns change before and after [Autopilot] disengagement ”, according to the study. “Before disengagement, drivers looked less at the road and focused more on areas unrelated to driving than after the transition to manual driving. The higher proportion of off-road looks before disengaging manual driving was not offset by longer looks ahead. “

Visual behavior patterns change before and after AP disengagement. Before disengagement, drivers looked less at the road and focused more on areas unrelated to driving than after the transition to manual driving. The higher proportion of off-road looks before disengaging manual driving was not offset by longer looks ahead.

The fact that drivers don’t pay as much attention to the road when using autopilot isn’t exactly a shock. What’s new is that researchers were able to see exactly where drivers were looking when the autopilot was on versus when it was off.

The off-road gazes were directed downward and toward the center console area, so they “were presumably unrelated to driving.” On the contrary, looking in these directions is usually associated with activities such as looking at a smartphone or interacting with the infotainment touchscreen in the center stack. These were often longer with the autopilot on and much more frequent than off-road gazes in manual driving, according to the newspaper.

Despite its name, Tesla’s full self-driving (FSD) autopilot is just a driver assistance system and is far from fully autonomous. As such, it requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and remain fully vigilant, but Tesla does not use cameras or other means to monitor the vigilance part.

The latest version, 10.0.1, is supposed to make safer decisions on the road, but has so far only been deployed to a relatively small group of beta testers. Tesla plans to roll it out more widely from September 24 and could release it to all autopilot FSD electric vehicles, pending a seven-day trial that will follow the owner’s behavior.

The new version could, however, pit Tesla against US regulators. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) director Jennifer Homendy recently said Tesla shouldn’t release the latest software update until it can fix “basic safety issues.” She was also not excited about Tesla’s mostly beta upgrades on public streets.


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