Consumer Reports: Testing Tesla & Ford Driver Monitoring Systems

According to Consumer Reports, Tesla’s camera-based driving monitoring system doesn’t work to keep a driver’s attention on the road. Meanwhile, the publication says Ford’s system “issues an alert when the driver’s eyes are diverted.”

Tesla hasn’t relied on a camera-based driver monitoring system in the past. Instead, Tesla Autopilot has relied on steering wheel torque to determine whether a driver’s hand was on the wheel. Consumer Reports, among other publications and organizations, urged Tesla to implement adequate driver monitoring, since the automaker’s semi-autonomous driving systems can prove unsafe if a driver isn’t engaged and ready to take control at a moment’s notice.

Interestingly, when Tesla first added the driver monitoring technology, Consumer Reports voiced privacy concerns over the system. This is because Tesla’s system has the ability to transport information back to the company. However, as far as we understand, owners have to agree to activate the camera and allow it to record and submit footage their personal footage to Tesla.

At any rate, Consumer Reports recently announced that it will be providing points for a car’s partially automated driving system. However, the system will only get points if it has adequate driver monitoring technology in place. Meanwhile, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is also developing a related rating system for automation safeguards.

Consumer Reports tested driver monitoring systems on various vehicles produced by BMW, Ford, General Motors, Tesla, and Subaru. Sadly, only two of the systems passed the tests. Consumer Reports gives credit to GM’s Super Cruise and Ford’s BlueCruise.

Consumer Reports says Tesla’s driver monitoring system didn’t warn them or disengage the driver-assistance technology when they took their eyes off the road. The test drivers used their mobile phones and the system allowed it. The publication shared via Tesla North:

“On Tesla Model Y and S vehicles with software version 11.0, we found that drivers could use Autopilot while the vehicle’s cabin camera was fully covered, which defeats the purpose of driver monitoring.”

“If the camera detected that the driver’s eyes were off the road, the vehicle shortened how long a driver could take their hands off the wheel. But as long as the driver’s hands remained on the wheel, we saw no warnings whether eyes were on or off the road. Tesla did not respond to our questions.”

Consumer Reports was even able to cover the Tesla’s camera and still proceed with its testing. With the camera covered in Ford’s vehicles, BlueCruise simply won’t activate.

While this is quite concerning, online reports from Tesla owners related to how the driver monitoring system performs are wildly varied. Some folks say the system is so strict they’ve already lost the privilege to use Autopilot or Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Beta system. Meanwhile, other Tesla owners say the technology doesn’t seem to make a difference.

Covering Tesla’s software and technology is increasingly tricky. The brand’s cars receive regular updates, so some cars may have updates that others don’t yet have. Older vehicles may have different hardware and be subject to different updates than the newest cars. Moreover, Tesla Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Beta are two different technologies, which have different features and potentially different “rules” and or “updates” related to driver monitoring.

That said, if any Tesla vehicles have inadequate driver monitoring capabilities, it’s a substantial safety concern, especially if those vehicles are capable of running the latest versions of Autopilot and FSD Beta.

Needless to say, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the developments related to Tesla’s driver monitoring system. Hopefully, the automaker will be able to make whatever updates and improvements are necessary across its entire global lineup in order to be successful in Consumer Reports’ and IIHS’ future testing.

We encourage Tesla owners to shed light on this situation. Does your car monitor your driving? If so, can you look away or use your phone without the system alerting you or disengaging? If not, is it due to the specific model or model year of your car? Are you waiting for a related update?

What is your understanding of any difference between Tesla’s driver monitoring in various versions of Autopilot compared to Full Self-Driving Beta? Finally, do you have to choose to have driver monitoring on? If you don’t agree to the monitoring, then what happens?

Source: Consumer Reports (YouTube) via Tesla North

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