A new study that tracks the eye movements of Tesla drivers found that they paid less attention to the road when their vehicles were on Tesla’s Autopilot system. According to a report on Business Insider, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recorded where 290 Model X and Model S drivers looked while using the driver-assist function. They compared the measurements against the same people driving without Autopilot. This lack of attention could result in accidents and injuries in the event of an Autopilot malfunction.
What Researchers Found
Autopilot is a semi-autonomous feature in Tesla vehicles that allows cars to brake, accelerate, and steer automatically. Tesla vehicles on Autopilot are not truly autonomous, and the company says so on its website, emphasizing that vehicles require drivers’ undivided attention even when they are on Autopilot.
However, researchers at MIT found that drivers paid less attention to the road when Autopilot was engaged. MIT’s study looked at trips with Autopilot-enabled vehicles that drove at least partly on a highway. It measured drivers’ glances for 20 seconds while Autopilot was active and for 10 seconds after disengagement.
Researchers found that when people drove on Autopilot, 22% of their glances at the center stack in the vehicle, the in-car multimedia touch screen, or a smartphone in their lap lasted longer than two seconds. This dropped to 4% when Autopilot was turned off. So, essentially, researchers said they found that driver behavior changes after engaging Autopilot and changes again when the feature is disengaged. Tesla drivers have also been known to sleep while driving.
This study comes at a time when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has intensified its investigation into incidents where Tesla vehicles on Autopilot collided with stopped emergency vehicles. Last month, two senators called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to look into Tesla’s “potentially deceptive and unfair” claims about both Autopilot and its Full Self-Driving software, which Tesla claims, is an enhanced version of the Autopilot.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of Tesla’s Autopilot or other types of autonomous or semi-autonomous features, you may be able to seek compensation for the injuries, damages, and losses you’ve suffered. An experienced auto defect lawyer can advise you regarding your legal rights and options.