How people really behave with Tesla Autopilot

TESLA – Based on some real data, MIT has developed a model that looks at how drivers may become inattentive when using Tesla’s Autopilot system.

MIT study on Tesla cars

They found, not surprisingly, that driving related off-road glances (perhaps checking for peripheral hazards, checking your speed etc) were less frequent; while non-driving related glances, were the most frequent and the longest (22% of the glances exceeded 2s).

There is evidence that some driver aids can be helpful – adaptive cruise control has reduced some tailgating.

If drivers are inattentive or have incorrect expectations about system performance, the response to safety relevant situations deteriorates.

They suggest one way to potentially improve drivers’ engagement is with a driver attention management system that can provide feedback to the driver or adapt the way the system reacts in real-time.


Like our approach to many transport developments Tesla’s system is driven by what has been technically possible. We need to look at how people use it rather than how we define how it should be used

It has been recently reported that regulators at the NHTSA in the United States had finally opened the long-overdue investigation into Tesla crashes. The NHTSA said the investigation includes Tesla’s Model X, S and 3 for model years 2014-2021. The broad range of models and model years means that this could be the large-scale investigation that many have been requesting for years.

The NHTSA said the investigation would assess technologies, methods “used to monitor, assist, and enforce the driver’s engagement” during autopilot operation, according to Bloomberg.

The NTSB has urged the company to work on the feature’s safety before pursuing Autopilot further. Jennifer Homendy, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said: “Basic safety issues have to be addressed before they then expand it to other city streets and other areas.”

Homendy argued that the term ‘full self-driving’ was “misleading and irresponsible”.

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About David Brown 581 Articles
David’s boyhood passion for motor cars did not immediately lead to a professional role in the motor industry. A qualified Civil Engineer he specialised in traffic engineering and transport planning. What followed were various positions including being seconded to a government think-tank for the planning of transport firstly in Sydney and then for the whole of NSW. After working with the NRMA and as a consultant he moved to being an independent writer and commentator on the broader areas of transport and the more specific areas of the cars we drive. His half hour motoring program “Overdrive” has been described as an “informed, humorous and irreverent look at motoring and transport from Australia and overseas”. It is heard on 22 stations across Australia. He does weekly interviews with several ABC radio stations and is also heard on commercial radio in Sydney. David has written for metropolitan and regional newspapers and has presented regular segments on metropolitan and regional television stations. David is also a contributor for AnyAuto