Watch as Tesla’s Autopilot Almost Steers Model 3 Into Oncoming Train

Beta testing self-driving software in public seems like a dangerous idea.

byNico DeMattiaJul 3, 2022 3:01 PM
Watch as Tesla’s Autopilot Almost Steers Model 3 Into Oncoming Train
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Tesla's Autopilot system, with its "Full Self-Driving Capability" option, is none of the things its name says it is: it's neither a true autopilot, nor is it capable of fully driving itself. Instead, it's an advanced driver assist system that can help ease a driver's workload while on a highway or clearly marked city streets. However, it's far from a perfect system, as this new video from YouTube channel Beta Tech OG shows, when his Model 3 almost drove itself into an oncoming train.

In this video, the drivers tests the Autopilot system, with the Full Self-Driving option, through the streets of Denver, Colorado. During the nearly 18-minute video, the Model 3 almost hits several things, causing the driver to eventually call it a bad drive for Tesla. However, two of its errors were more egregious than the others and one of those two nearly saw the Tesla get hit by one of Denver's light rail trains, as it attempted to turn left in the train's path.

Prior to nearly crashing into the train, the Model 3 was stopped at a red light, with its left turn signal on. That told the car the driver wanted to turn left and, after the light turned green, the car was supposed to wait until it was clear to turn. However, instead of waiting, the Tesla seemed to either think it had enough space and time to make the turn before the train got there, or it didn't recognize the train properly. What's weird, though, is that the Autopilot's display on the infotainment screen, which shows the car's recognized surroundings, picked up on the train. You can actually see it on the screen before the car starts to turn. It isn't clear why the Tesla decided to turn left in front of the train, despite noticing it, but the driver was forced to take over and steer the car away. If the car thought it could make the turn in time, its programming is too aggressive. Even the train operator blew their horn at the Tesla, proving a turn was the wrong move in that situation.

Later in the video, toward the end, the Model 3 attempted to make a pretty routine left turn but took the turn too wide and almost drove into two pedestrians standing on the corner. After that, the driver called it a day, claiming he was "super disappointed with Tesla," which is hard to argue. In Tesla's defense, there's a button to report any issues that occur while using Autopilot but it needs just a single button press and doesn't require the driver to add any situational specifics, so it's unclear how helpful the report function really is.

There's a much larger conversation to be had about the ethics of Tesla beta testing its Full Self-Driving option on public roads, using customers—not trained professionals—to test it. While Tesla absolutely isn't the only game in town, when it comes to advanced driver assist systems, other brands are far more cautious in their approach and don't release software until it's been fully tested by professionals in controlled environments. Thankfully no one was injured this time, and he was able to steer his car away from the oncoming train and pedestrians, but that doesn't mean everyone will be able to respond in time in the future.