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Consumer Reports unimpressed by Tesla's Autopilot feature

Georgia residents may be aware that several automakers are currently rushing to bring the first self-driving car to the market. Palo Alto-based Tesla claims that their Autopilot feature already boasts many of the capabilities of a level 5 autonomous vehicle, but this is not the conclusion researchers from Consumer Reports magazine reached after testing several cars equipped with the system.

Autopilot gathers data about road conditions and the movement of traffic using an impressive array of sensors, cameras, radar and LiDAR, and the feature then uses this information to accelerate, brake and change lanes with no driver input. Tesla claims that vehicles under the control of Autopilot have changed lanes countless times and covered millions of miles, but Consumer Report says that using the feature puts more demands on motorists than driving a car the old-fashioned way. According to the magazine, the experience of monitoring Autopilot in action is like watching an untrained teenager struggle behind the wheel.

The magazine's testers say that Autopilot frequently cuts other vehicles off when it changes lanes and has great difficulty dealing with cars or trucks approaching from the rear. They also claim that vehicles under the control of the feature often brake unexpectedly and with great vigor. A series of fatal car wrecks involving vehicles that had the system engaged have led some road safety advocates to accuse Tesla of introducing unproven technology and hyping its capabilities.

When their clients have been injured in accidents involving vehicles with sophisticated autonomous features, experienced personal injury attorneys could seek to obtain the electronic data stored on their black box-type devices. This information may reveal if the systems were in use at the time of the crash and whether drivers were paying attention. Such evidence could be used to establish liability and negligence in car accident lawsuits.

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