I checked out Tesla Autopilot — and there’s no way it can drive a car by itself – Business Insider

DeBord TeslaThe car isn’t actually moving.Matthew DeBord/BI

The National Transportation Safety Board has released some additional details about a fatal Tesla Model S Autopilot crash in May of 2016.

One of the findings was alarming. According to the NTSB, an agency that rarely investigates auto accidents and usually spends years delving into plane crashes: “[d]uring the last 41 minutes of [Joshua] Brown’s trip, the Model S was in Autopilot for 37.5 minutes …. Brown had his hands off the wheel for a total of 37 minutes during the time the car was in Autopilot.”

And: “The Model S displayed the visual warning “hold steering wheel” seven times during the trip. Six of those were followed by auditory warnings.”

As it turns out, I gathered some experience with Autopilot. Last year, Tesla loaned me a Model S P90D with the latest everything. We used it to take a trip to the Catskills, in upstate New York. It was quite an adventure, and the car performed well, but …

What was Autopilot really like?

It was very advanced cruise control — and to Tesla’s credit, it has become more advanced since I explored it last year. When it’s fully activated, auto-steering allows the driver to take his hands off the wheel for short periods of time, although Tesla has repeatedly stressed that drivers shouldn’t do this. And when you activate the technology, a warning presents itself on the instrument cluster.

These are the warnings that Brown evidently failed to follow. To address that issue, Tesla has updated the software so that if you ignore the warnings, Autopilot will deactivate for the remainder of your journey.

But here’s the real deal: Warnings or not, you absolutely, positively shouldn’t take you hands off of the wheel. Ever.

The technology is very good, but after using it for only about 15 minutes on the highway, it was abundantly clear to me that Autopilot is a long, long way from the magical experience of a car driving itself.

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