Tesla drivers aren’t watching the road when ‘self-driving’ software is on

The ‘Full Self-Driving’ feature is already beta-testing in some Canadian vehicles

Tesla Infotainment

In news that manages to be simultaneously unsurprising and terrifying, researchers from MIT have found that drivers pay less attention to the road when Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ software is switched on.

According to the study published in Accident Analysis & Prevention, “visual behavior patterns change before and after” drivers activate the electric car’s autopilot software.

Specifically, the study found that drivers didn’t look out the windshield as much, noting that “non-driving related glances to the down/center-stack areas were the most frequent and the longest,” with nearly a quarter (22 percent) of those glances lasting longer than two seconds.

The “down/center-stack areas” would be around the spot where Tesla has decided to install a suped-up infotainment system in its vehicles, featuring a sizable screen and an AMD chip, presumably so you can play The Witcher 3 while blasting down the 401.

This is something of a big deal considering that — despite its ambitious name — Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ software isn’t actually full self-driving software.

Rather, it’s an automated driving assistant, as TechCrunch and Engadget both reminded readers, like cruise control or self-parking proximity sensors.

This means that even with the autopilot software turned on, drivers must still keep their hands on the wheel and — most importantly — pay attention to the road.

Lucky for Canada, Tesla began beta testing its autopilot software in Canadian-owned vehicles in mid-September.

The ethicality of beta-testing a “self-driving” car unsupervised on public roads, using regular drivers who are apparently scientifically proven to be less attentive behind the wheel than usual when the software is activated, is a whole other conversation.

Here’s very much hoping that the recent update rolled out to some Tesla vehicles, which seems to have improved the car’s on-screen visuals and on-road driving, is enough to prevent any major accidents or injuries in Canada.

Source: TechCrunch, Engadget, MIT