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- A Tesla feature monitoring if drivers are holding the wheel can be tricked with weights, users say.
- Tesla’s Autopilot requires constant human supervision, as it can’t handle all driving situations.
- CEO Elon Musk may remove the monitor for drivers with over 10,000 miles under their belts.
Tesla’s Autopilot and “Full Self-Driving’ (FSD) systems have a safety feature that warns drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all times. But some drivers have been able to go hands-free by defeating the monitoring system with various tricks, including strapping ankle weights to the steering wheel so as to “kick back and do whatever”, Tesla owner David Alford told The New York Times Magazine.
“I know a couple of people with Teslas that have FSD beta, and they have it to drink and drive instead of having to call an Uber,” Alford said. (He noted that he always watches the road while using the feature.)
Elon Musk’s automaker released its much discussed Autopilot system in 2015, and Teslas have since found themselves in all sorts of crashes. That includes 273 crashes between July 20, 2021 and May 21, 2022, according to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s roughly 74% of the total number of crashes involving advanced driver-assist systems in that period.
To prevent drivers from getting too comfortable with Autopilot, in 2016 Tesla introduced the feature that detects when a driver has their hands on the steering wheel, and can disable the system if the driver’s hands stay off for too long.
But the monitoring system can be tricked, and that’s been the case for years. Various reports say that drivers have convinced the car they’re holding the wheel with carefully placed oranges, water bottles, and homemade or commercially distributed weights.
In November of 2022, discussions over whether Tesla’s latest self driving software detected “cheat” weights or not was still lively on the Tesla Motor Club platform, with some users reporting still using them successfully.
The company is expected to release the latest full self-driving software later this month, though it is unclear whether it will liberate seasoned Tesla drivers from having to regularly apply pressure to the steering wheel.
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.