Tesla drivers are becoming notoriously famous for falling asleep after putting their cars on autopilot. A number of incidents have been reported in California where drivers were caught catching a nap while they drove on major roads with the autopilot turned on. Some of the drivers are using Autopilot Buddy to trick the system into thinking that the driver has his or her hands on the wheel.
Generally, autopilot and other driver assist features require that the driver has their hands on the steering wheel at all times. But Tesla drivers are making use of an ‘Autopilot nag’ or a device that can trick the system into believing that there is pressure on the steering wheel. If the device moves or (the way it was intended) if the driver took their hands off the steering wheel, warning sounds would be made and if no response was registered, Tesla would slow down eventually coming to a halt.
One such product is being marketed as ‘Autopilot Buddy’. It mimics the weight of the driver’s hands and has been created so that it can be fitted onto the steering wheel of a Tesla. The National Highway Traffic Safety Authority (NHTSA) is already trying to get such products off the market. NHTSA said in an official statement, ‘The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a cease and desist letter to the company selling a product called the Autopilot Buddy. Marketed as a ‘Tesla autopilot nag reduction device,’ its primary function is to disable a safety feature in Tesla vehicles that monitors the driver’s hands on the steering wheel and warns the driver when hands are not detected. Aftermarket devices, such as Autopilot Buddy, are motor vehicle equipment regulated by NHTSA.’
Heidi King, NHTSA Deputy Administrator, said, ‘A product intended to circumvent motor vehicle safety and driver attentiveness is unacceptable. By preventing the safety system from warning the driver to return their hands to the wheel, this product disables an important safeguard, and could put customers and other road users at risk.’ However, it has been reported that the device is still being sold only under a different name.