Victim of its success.
When it comes to advanced driving automation systems, most people might think that Tesla is king. Autopilot is, after all, one of the most popular features available in the Californian electric vehicles, and we've seen it tackle some pretty challenging stretches of road. Well, maybe not. In a comparison test of a number of systems by Consumer Reports, Cadillac's Super Cruise actually came out on top. And this isn't the first comparison of these two systems have reached that same conclusion. So, what is going on here? Let's take a closer look.
In everyday usage, there's no doubt that many would prefer Autopilot, especially if they are Tesla owners familiar with its proficiency at reading the roads and adjusting to traffic accordingly. And, despite it being referred to as a beta system and recommended for highway use only, it can be engaged anywhere. Did we mention that the system is constantly being improved upon and given even more functionality over time?
Super Cruise, on the other hand, actually scores lower than Autopilot when it comes to basic functionality. It's just not as capable and it's also geo-fenced, meaning that it can only be used on certain highways. When it first rolled out, the number of roads where it would even turn on as quite limited, but that's has grown over time and it now functions on a wide swath of our highway system.
So how does the Cadillac system manage to beat out Tesla's? It all comes down to safety and it seems here, Autopilot is a victim of its own success. Experts in the field contend that with increased confidence in a system, comes a greater liklihood a driver will be less attentive. Sure, the Tesla system does nag you visually and audibly if you stay hands-off for 20 seconds or so, but a car can cover a lot of ground in that time and, perhaps, find itself in a situation where it needs the driver to intervene.
By contrast, the Super Cruise system employs a camera trained on the driver and monitors their eyes to see if they look away from the road. Close your eyes or turn your head for more than four seconds and the Caddy's steering wheel lights up and it gives an audible warning. The seat may even vibrate.
While Autopilot is expected to get even more improvements and features in an upcoming "Version 9" update, it still won't have this sort of advanced driver monitoring, and so we expect it will continue to lag behind Super Cruise in these sorts of comparisons for some time. The Tesla Model 3 does have an interior camera that possibly could be adapted to this purpose, among other things, but there's no indication that will happen. When CR contacted the company about whether its interior camera might be purposed with this driver monitoring task in the future, they were told by email the following:
"It might be utilized in potential future features, which could be added to Model 3 with software releases. Customers will receive prior notice if/when Tesla decides to use it."
Source: Consumer Reports