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Tesla driver distracted by active autopilot >

Tesla driver distracted by active autopilot >

Image: University of Windsor

As has been the case for several years, Tesla is releasing a software update shortly before Christmas aimed at delighting customers with new functionality. However, in North America, after the announcement of the new “Hifi” parking display, the Autopilot system was patched because Tesla began recalling it at the request of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Surprisingly, the holiday package also brought stricter autopilot controls to Europe, which not everyone likes. However, one study suggests that it is necessary.

Tesla controls Autopilot more stringently

Tesla explains in its online brochures that its Autopilot system is a “function that requires your attention.” When using it, you should always keep your hands on the wheel and pay attention to the road and other road users. This was previously controlled in Basic Autopilot using sensors that detect resistance or force on the Tesla steering wheel. Beta testers of the FSD option in North America are also being noticed by a camera that has been installed in the inside mirror since the Model 3.

In Europe, with or without FSD, requests to turn the steering wheel back could previously be ignored with relative impunity: the automated steering assistant turned itself off while the car was in motion, but was available again after it was briefly turned off. This is the case with the new software, but if this happens three times, Tesla will block the use of Autopilot for a week. In addition, the interior camera is no longer only used in North America and with FSD: anyone with this camera will now be warned everywhere if their eyes are not on the road for a long time. In this case, after five “hits” the autopilot turns off for a week.

Model 3 testers are distracted

Some customers viewed this part of Tesla's update as paternalism or justice without a judge, especially since it is sometimes said that both the steering wheel sensor and the camera give false warnings. However, a series of tests by the Canadian University of Windsor, carried out before the hybrid Christmas surprise, show that strict control of the person behind the wheel cannot be avoided with modern assistance systems such as the Autopilot system. When testers drove down the highway in a Tesla Model 3 with this support, they didn't look at the road for nearly twice as long as without it.

According to, the study participated Technical article about this At the end of October, 30 volunteers from the university environment participated, and they are relatively young with an average age of 22 years. After a short introductory course, they were sent out to the highway in the Model 3 individually and monitored by additionally mounted cameras and a research assistant in the back seat. They drove for 40 minutes with and without autopilot assistants for speed and lane keeping.

Touch screen for 120 seconds instead of the road

Most test subjects had no prior Tesla experience, but were prepared with an introductory Autopilot video and a test course before driving on the highway. Before things actually got started, the assistant traveling with us reminded them not to use any electronic devices, including the car's touchscreen, while on the road. But the technology and support of Autopilot proved too tempting: Without an assistant, test participants looked at the screen for about 50 seconds on each flight, and the duration was about 120 seconds.

Apart from that, no significant differences emerged from the comparison engines. With and without the autopilot, test subjects looked at the inside and outside mirrors for about the same amount of time, and to the university team's surprise, the cognitive load remained roughly the same rather than being reduced with assistance.

However, the result of looking from the road is described as worrying, as it has doubled overall to 16 percent of driving time. The test subjects were told shortly beforehand that they had to remain alert and that they knew that cameras and someone were watching them. Tesla's stricter Autopilot controls with the holiday update appear to be justified.