Technology

Dangerous ‘Autopilot Buddy’ Tricks Tesla Cars into Thinking Driver’s Hands are on the Wheel

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The semi-autonomous Autopilot system available on many Tesla vehicles can easily be seen as revolutionary. While it allows drivers to relinquish some of the driving responsibilities to the car, certain safety mechanisms are present to ensure the person in the driver’s seat remains engaged and ready to take over in certain situations. But an after-market device can override that system.

Tesla’s autopilot gives drivers the ability to automate portions of the driving experience. The system can keep the vehicle moving at a set speed, slow for traffic up ahead, keep the car in the proper lane, navigate land changes when the turn signal is triggered, and even follow curves in the roadway.

However, it doesn’t allow the driver to remove their hands from the steering wheel at critical times. If you fail to meet the system’s requirements, it will alert you with a warning on the dashboard followed by an audio alert. If you still don’t comply, the autopilot will stop the vehicle.

The intention behind the safety mechanisms is to ensure that drivers don’t act in a negligent manner. But one small after-market device changes the game.

The Autopilot Buddy, according to a report by Jalopnik, is a piece of plastic with magnets added that attaches to the steering wheel of the Tesla, tricking the car into believing your hands are on the steering wheel.

When the Autopilot Buddy is in place, the driver of the Tesla could effectively do anything, including take a nap, climb into the back seat, or eat a steak with a knife and fork.

While the Autopilot Buddy website does include the expected disclaimers, including saying that the product is not a “safety device,” that irresponsible use “may cause injury or death,” and that it is “designed for close track use, not for use on public streets,” it also touts that “’Autopilot Buddy’ allows early adopters to once again enjoy autopilot for longer durations, buy reducing or turning off the autopilot check-in warning.”

Ultimately, the Autopilot Buddy is designed to bypass the safety mechanisms in place to help ensure that drivers remain attentive and ready to take control of the vehicle, creating a potentially dangerous, or even deadly, situation for anyone in or around the car while the Autopilot Buddy is engaged.