what is happening with the Tesla Autopilot

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Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving system is not going through its best moment. In the United States they investigate the effectiveness of the system. The same thing happens in Germany. And some users are reporting issues with the latest update. What is happening with Tesla Autopilot?


What is Autopilot. Tesla Autopilot is a semi-autonomous driving system that allows some driving functions to be delegated to the vehicle itself. In addition to adaptive cruise control, lane keeping or autonomous parking, Tesla Autopilot was considered one of the most advanced systems because it was capable of changing lanes when necessary or moving around a city with minimal human intervention.

In the spotlight. The Autopilot is approved for use in the United States but the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), which is in charge of verifying and qualifying the systems in the American country, is carrying out a investigation due to the latest problems that the automation systems are causing, especially due to the so-called “ghost braking”, which have spread in recent months.

The problem comes at a bad time for the firm, now that the German agencies in charge of traffic (KBA, Federal Motor Transport Authority for its acronym in German) are studying the homologation of the Autopilot system for use on European roads. For now, systems like adaptive cruise control are completely legal, but the driver still has to give the go-ahead, or make lane changes himself.

phantom braking. The phantom braking that some Tesla drivers are experiencing has raised some alarm among US authorities. In the last nine months, notices of this problem have multiplied according to the NHTSA, reaching 354 in the last nine months. According Washington PostIn three months, 107 complaints have been received for this problem. A situation that has motivated the opening of a new investigation.

According to the affected drivers, these phantom brakes occur on roads traveling at high speed and cause unexpected braking when the car detects a supposed obstacle on the road. The situation can be very dangerous if a driver closely follows the Tesla and among the registered complaints it has been highlighted that, in some cases, they can be repeated on the same journey.

radars vs cameras. One of the possible causes pointed to is the decision to change the use of radars for cameras to scan the environment. The new architecture is called Tesla Vision, it is available in all Model 3 and Model Y that are sold since May in the United States and is based exclusively on cameras. According to Tesla, radars are capable of detecting an obstacle 160 meters away, while cameras can do the same 250 meters away.

It is not new. The debate about using radars or cameras in semi-autonomous driving assistance systems is not new. According to the NHTSA itself, in a report that we echoed a few weeks ago, there is no substantial difference between vehicles that only use cameras or radars for emergency braking, but it is true that those that mount mixed systems tend to be more effective and lose much less effectiveness when night falls.

From 0 to 5: what are the different levels of autonomous driving, in depth

To be or not to be. But, in addition, these NHTSA investigations come just at the moment in which the agency warned that it would monitor semi-autonomous driving assistance systems more closely, arguing that many were selling something that, in reality, they were not. US traffic officials have already warned that many manufacturers overestimated their own ADAS driving assistance systems, which could cause confusion for drivers or future customers.

Photo | Marcus Zacher

Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving system is not going through its best moment. In the United States they investigate the effectiveness of…

Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving system is not going through its best moment. In the United States they investigate the effectiveness of…

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