Don't try this at home. Or anywhere.

The recent tragedy in Tempe, Arizona where an "autonomous" Uber  vehicle — a Volvo XC90 PHEV, whose native Aptiv ADAS system was allegedly disabled — struck and killed a pedestrian walking their bicycle across a street has sparked questions for at least one Tesla owner. How would his car react in a similar situation? The video you see above, as well as several similar others, ensued.

Now, what one does with their car is typically their own business, but from our perspective this "experiment" is wrong on many levels. First, the experimenters are basically playing in traffic on public roads. We probably don't need to tell you how bad an idea this is. Even in a controlled environment, things can go wrong, and accidents and injuries can happen. Staging this stunt on a public road is irresponsible, at best.

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tesla autpilot cardboard box
We probably also don't need to remind you that Autopilot is not an autonomous system. It's an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) with a suite of features meant to aid the driver, not replace them. It is not designed to stop for people standing in the roadway, and most likely will not. As CEO Elon Musk reportedly said during the conference call when version 8.0 software was introduced in September of 2016, "Actually, it should work for something like a moose – because it is quite a big mass, but it may not work for say a small deer. A small deer probably would not trigger braking, but a moose I think would. I’m not 100% sure of that, but I think it would trigger on a moose."

Sure, it's nice to know what the system will detect, and what level of "intelligence" owners can expect, but there are other, safer ways to go about it. For instance, one could check out the post published by the company that discusses how the radar, cameras, and fleet learning work together to understand the environment the car is traveling through. It's a pretty informative read.

So, if you've watched the video, you can see that the system will generally not detect a floor lamp with a bit of fabric hanging off of it. If you have read about how the system functions, then you will understand why this is the case.

For its part, Tesla released a statement to Electrek back when a similar experiment was performed with an actual person standing in the road. We'll leave it below, along with a few pertinent warnings and notifications about the safety systems that can be found in owners manual, for your edification.

Safety is a top priority at Tesla, and anyone attempting to purposefully strike another person or object with their Tesla is misusing the vehicle. It is paramount that our customers exercise safe behavior when using our vehicles, including remaining alert and ready to resume control at all times when using the car’s autonomous features, and braking to avoid a collision.

 More information on Automatic Emergency Braking:

 Model S and Model X are equipped with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), which is designed to engage the brakes at the last possible moment to avoid or mitigate a collision. AEB does not engage when an alternative collision avoidance strategy (e.g., driver steering) remains viable. Instead, when a collision threat is detected, forward collision warning alerts the driver to encourage them to take appropriate evasive action. AEB is a fallback safety feature that operates by design only at high levels of severity and should not be tested with live subjects.

  • Traffic-Aware Cruise Control does not eliminate the need to watch the road in front of you and to apply the brakes when needed.
  • Warning: Traffic-Aware Cruise Control is designed for your driving comfort and convenience and is not a collision warning or avoidance system. It is your responsibility to stay alert, drive safely, and be in control of the vehicle at all times. Never depend on Traffic-Aware Cruise Control to adequately slow down Model S. Always watch the road in front of you and be prepared to take corrective action at all times. Failure to do so can result in serious injury or death.
  • Warning: Forward Collision Warning is for guidance purposes only and is not a substitute for attentive driving and sound judgment. Keep your eyes on the road when driving and never depend on Forward Collision Warning to warn you of a potential collision…
  • Warning: Automatic Emergency Braking is designed to support the driver in emergency situations only. Several factors can affect the performance of Automatic Emergency Braking, causing either no braking or inappropriate or untimely braking. It is the driver’s responsibility to drive safely and remain in control of the vehicle at all times. Never depend on Automatic Emergency Braking to avoid or reduce the impact of a collision.
  • Warning: Automatic Emergency Braking is not designed to prevent a collision. At best, it can minimize the impact of a frontal collision by attempting to reduce your driving speed. Depending on Automatic Emergency Braking to avoid a collision can result in serious injury or death.
  • Warning: Automatic Emergency Braking is designed to reduce the severity of an impact. It is not designed to avoid a collision.

Source: YouTube, Tesla, Electrek