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Tesla Autopilot gets top marks for performance but trashed for driver engagement in new industry-wide tests

In a new Euro NCAP report, Tesla Autopilot gets top marks for its performance, but it gets also trashed for its driver engagement.

The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP), a European voluntary car safety performance assessment program, has produced a new report about automated driving systems in partnership with Thatcham Research.

The report judges the different systems based on three main categories: Vehicle Assistance, Driver Engagement, and Safety Backup.

Out of the 10 systems tested, Tesla’s Autopilot received the top performance in all categories except for driver engagement, where it received the lowest performance.

Here’s how they describe driver engagement:

The level of driver engagement they offer is the carmaker’s portrayal of assistance appropriate in their marketing material? How effectively does the car monitor the driver to ensure they are engaged with the driving process? How easy is it for the driver to interact with the assisted system? How clearly does the car communicate its assistance status? 

They took particular issue with the name of Tesla’s driver-assist system, the promotional material, lack of head-up display, and lack of driver monitoring system.

Euro NCAP wrote about Autopilot driver engagement:

Tesla’s system name Autopilot is inappropriate as it suggests full automation. The promotional material suggests automation where the handbook correctly indicates the limitations of the system capabilities, which could lead to confusion. Status information is clear, but the Model 3 does not offer a head-up display showing the system status in the driver’s direct line of sight. While the Tesla is equipped with an internal camera, it is not used for Driver Monitoring relying only on steering wheel input for driver engagement. The system resists driver steering input and then disengages, limiting co-operative driving.

While Tesla is scoring at the bottom for driver engagement, Autopilot has crushed all other systems for on the actual performance:

Here’s a video they produced about the new grading standard they are trying to establish for assisted driving:

Electrek’s Take

I think that’s mostly fair. Maybe they should give more weight to the actual performance in the overall grading.

I’d disagree about the name Autopilot. I don’t think it suggests “full automation” like they are claiming.

However, Tesla selling people a “full self-driving capability” package along with Autopilot can be more confusing.

Therefore, I can concede that Tesla’s overall “promotional material suggests automation” can be confusing to some.

But I think that’s not the biggest problem with driver engagement.

The lack of strong driver monitoring is the real problem. The fact that Tesla can’t even detect hands on wheels and only really detect torque apply to the wheel is a shame.

Gaze detection would be a big plus too, but I think new steering wheel sensors would make the biggest difference.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

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