3 Tesla Autopilot Fails

Near-misses serve as a reminder that Autopilot is still in beta-testing mode and that full "hands-off" driving is not advised.

Tesla’s Autopilot Level 2 autonomous driving system has been out for about a week now, and you knew it was only a matter of time before drivers started posting their videos.

Autopilot uses radar and camera sensors to detect the distance to cars in front to judge speed and brake, while monitoring the white lane lines to guide it round corners. However, some early adopters have posted hair-raising videos of Model S cars veering into traffic while their hands were off the wheel.

Tesla stressed during the Autopilot press conference that drivers should remain in control of the cars at all times, and the videos below will show you why it’s important to keep your hands on the steering wheel.

Most of this first clip is uneventful, but a near-miss occurs towards the very end. The driver keeps Autopilot engaged while driving on an exit ramp, and it appears the Model S continues to drive straight instead of following the ramp to the left.

Maybe the turn was too sharp for Autopilot or the on-board cameras were confused because the white lines on the left side of the street come to an end, but the driver was heady enough to quickly grab the wheel to avoid an accident.

In this next clip below, which was uploaded to YouTube by user RockStarTree, the car begins to veer from its lane. Luckily there is no oncoming traffic, so nothing happens. But then another car comes and the driver almost hits it. RockStarTree says, had he not reacted quickly, a head-on collision would have occurred. Here’s his explanation:

“I can only guess at what happened next. My car apparently thought the oncoming car was supposed to be followed, and suddenly veered to the left, crossing the double-yellow road divider line right into its path. Shortly after that, another car was coming in my car’s direction from the opposite side of the road. I admit I started to ignore the warning to keep my hands on the wheel so that I could record the moment to share with friends. That’s when all hell broke loose.”


In this final clip, the incident starts at 2:42. The road bends to the right, but the Tesla Autopilot appears to be driving the car straight. The driver quickly takes control after a little scare.


Tesla founder Elon Musk has admitted Autopilot is still in a beta-testing phase, so some glitches are to be expected. These clips should also serve as a reminder to Tesla drivers that Autopilot isn’t intended to turn Tesla’s into self-driving cars, and that plenty of human intervention is still needed. It’s also confirmation that Tesla Autopilot has been overhyped.

Tesla Autopilot will soon be rolled out to markets outside the United States, including Europe and Asia, once regulatory approval takes place.

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
Contact Steve Crowe: scrowe@ehpub.com  ·  View More by Steve Crowe.


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