UPDATE: ‘Autopilot Buddy’ For Tesla Cars Deemed Unsafe By NHTSA

AUG 27 2018 BY STEVEN LOVEDAY 46

It’s about time the NHTSA issued a cease and desist letter to the company selling ‘Autopilot Buddy.’

***UPDATE: Autopilot Buddy returns. It’s now marketed as a “cell phone holder.” See screen grab directly below. Link to website here. Hat tip to Brian Ro!

The website now states: The #1776™ cell phone holder is “not an Autopilot Buddy®” See our FAQ for more information. Wonder where they got that idea?

Sadly, some people have gone to great lengths to “trick” Tesla Autopilot from nagging them to put their hands back on the wheel. We’ve heard about all sorts of homemade fabrications that will reportedly make the system think a driver is “engaged.” There have even been reports of people hanging something from the steering wheel and then going to sleep or heading for the rear or passenger seat.

Let’s just say right now that this is a terrible idea. With all the recent press about the system’s quirks and Tesla’s continual assertion that the problems are always caused by drivers failing to use the technology correctly, or more specifically, not keeping their hands on the wheel, this is a recipe for disaster. According to the automaker, Autopilot is a “hands-on” system. Tesla has gone to great lengths to make this explicitly clear.

Not only will there be dire consequences if people continue to try to circumvent the system, it will also put a complex monkey wrench into these investigations. If a driver gets into an accident and Tesla (along with the investigating agency) learns that the driver’s hands were on the wheel, the tables turn. However, what if it wasn’t actually the driver’s hands, but instead, some homemade “fooling” device or Autopilot Buddy?

This is another reason that Tesla may want to more seriously consider an active driver monitoring system with in-car cameras and/or a capacitive touch sensor, not only to save lives but also to save its posterior, but that’s another story.

As of the time of this writing, Autopilot Buddy is still available for purchase on the internet. The product description says it’s not a “hands-free” device and that it’s for Track Use Only, but its purpose is clear. Autopilot Buddy is billed as a “Tesla Autopilot Nag Reduction Device.”

If you have purchased this product, please do not use it. Additionally, spread the word to your connections in the Tesla community.

We received the following email from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

CONSUMER ADVISORY: NHTSA Deems ‘Autopilot Buddy’ Product Unsafe

Federal Regulators Issue a Cease and Desist Order

WASHINGTON, D.C. – 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.

“A product intended to circumvent motor vehicle safety and driver attentiveness is unacceptable,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King. “By preventing the safety system from warning the driver to return hands to the wheel, this product disables an important safeguard, and could put customers and other road users at risk.”

The letter directs the company to respond by June 29, 2018, and to certify to NHTSA that all U.S marketing, sales, and distribution of the Autopilot Buddy has ended.

The public is encouraged to report suspected safety issues affecting vehicles or vehicle equipment to NHTSA’s vehicle hotline at (888) 327-4236 or online at www.NHTSA.gov.

Stay connected with NHTSA: Search for open recalls at NHTSA.gov/Recalls | Download the mobile app for Apple or Android devices | Receive recall alerts by e-mail | Visit us on Facebook.com/NHTSA | Follow us on Twitter.com/NHTSAgov | Watch 5-Star Safety Ratings crash tests on YouTube.com/USDOTNHTSA.

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Categories: Tesla

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46 Comments on "UPDATE: ‘Autopilot Buddy’ For Tesla Cars Deemed Unsafe By NHTSA"

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John

What an absolutely TERRIBLE idea.. It’s bizarre how some folks have zero foresight to see the lawsuits baked right into their products. Kinda like the bump stocks..

Rightofthepeople

Not taking the bait…not taking the bait!

🙂

John

What bait??

Nix

Some people don’t agree on bump stocks, I guess.

Rightofthepeople

I think bump stocks are ridiculous and no serious shooter would ever want one. I just didn’t want to get into a politically charged gun control debate on an EV forum.

John

Oh, gotcha. I wasn’t trying to get into a gun debate here, I wasn’t even thinking about that with the bump stock comment. But I can see your point.

Rightofthepeople

That’s interesting, my reply was in moderation (even though it seemed rather tame to me) and now it has disappeared. System glitch or have I finally worn out my welcome on IEVs?

windbourne

They are from china. Zero lawsuits.

Texas Leaf

I understand why many drivers of steering assist vehicles look for ways to not have to hold onto the steering wheel. The steering wheel pressure sensors requiring the driver to tightly grip the steering wheel makes the steering assist system seem pointless. But I’ve found I can make the steering wheel ProPilot pressure sensors happy by simply resting my hands on the bottom of the steering wheel with the weight of my hands activating the pressure sensors.

Resting my hands on the steering wheel is much more comfortable than gripping the steering wheel. My hands are on the wheel just in case ProPilot gets confused or makes a mistake (it happens) and I have to take over. There is no way I would let ProPilot control my car without me monitoring it constantly,

Pushmi-Pullyu

“The steering wheel pressure sensors requiring the driver to tightly grip the steering wheel makes the steering assist system seem pointless.”

Regarding Tesla Autopilot, It’s amazing how this bad meme has spread. There aren’t any pressure sensors on the steering wheel, and you don’t have to grip it tightly to respond to Autopilot’s test to see if you’re controlling the wheel. You just need to wiggle the wheel slightly; pressing with a couple of fingers should usually do it.

Does ProPilot work differently? Perhaps, but I doubt it.

bro1999

$199 was a ridiculous price too. Good riddance.
If we see a run on oranges soon, we know what happened. 😉

dan

Is it oranges now? I thought it was onions? I can’t keep up. The future moves too fast.

William

I’m still stuck on Wall Street Orange Juice futures.

Talk about behind the times.

Sheesh Mortimer!

Raja Ramineni

I use auto pilot very rarely due to its serious limitations its AP1, but the sensors are not good in Tesla u have to put explicit weight on it, even though i hold the wheel @ the bottom , pressure is not enough. I get constant nagging , it beats my wife 🙂 LOL.
Half ** Product ,Half ** Solution.

bro1999

” it beats my wife”
Yet another reason for AP buddy to be banned!

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

yeah, his wife was pretty bruised up……lol

Nix

Are you comfortable enough with your driving skills to make an emergency maneuver with just one hand in the middle of the bottom of the steering wheel?

Traditional driving school and DMV publications universally advise other hand positions that suggest that your choice is not a good choice for hand position. If you need to quickly take control of the vehicle and quickly make a series of steering inputs, like counter-steering a slide, or doing a “Moose Test” hard swerve, your chosen hand position will reduce your chances of success.

https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/hdbk/signaling

Hand Position – If you think of the steering wheel as the face of a clock, place your hands at 9 and 3 o’clock, or slightly lower at 8 and 4 o’clock.

To reduce face, arm, and hand injuries in the case of a deployed air bag, you should grip the outside of the steering wheel, with your knuckles on the outside of the wheel, and your thumbs stretched along the rim.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Back in the day (late sixties or early seventies), in Driver’s Ed we were taught to use a 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock position for hands on the wheels. But those are certainly not the best positions for preventing fatigue on a long trip.

Bojan

I actually find 10 and 2 more comfortable than 9 and 3, since the weight of the hands can be partially supported by the wheel. In the 9 and 3 position, I have to actively grip the wheel if I want to rest my arms on it.

As far as I know, the 9 and 3 position did not come in favour because it would reduce fatigue, but because you’re less likely to suffer hand injury from airbag deployment.

Scott Franco

6 oclock and nose…

Will

7 – 4 position for me

Loboc

Left knee position works as well. 🙂

Bunny

You post is spot on. I once had a driver orientation test drive at one of the largest trucking companies in the US and the safety manager started driving with his wrist hanging over the top of the steering wheel one handed. I quickly spoke up requesting that if I’m going to ride as a passenger, please use two hands on the steering wheel, and by the way, watching your eyes, it’d be good if you’d use your right mirror once in a while.

Obviously this guy went out of his way for me not to get hired, but I’m pushing 2 million accident free miles in my career, so I know of what I speak.

I prefer 9-3 or even 10-2, not big on 8-4 or anything below 9-3 but then the truck and car I’m almost always driving is in manual transmission vehicles.
That’s purely my own opinion. Take it or leave it.

Also in auto racing you never see below 9-3

Pushmi-Pullyu

“That’s purely my own opinion. Take it or leave it.”

Hmmm, I think that’s the voice of experience talking. Not just “opinion”! 🙂

Scott Franco

Just curious, how many interviews did you fail before learning not to talk back to the boss?

Bunny

Ironically, that episode of not getting hired there worked out really well, I applied online to the place I currently drive for. Based on my verifiable record of over million miles accident free, clean background and drug test, clean dmv ( no tickets three years), perfect csa score . They sent me airfare to Chicago, a room at Hampton Suites and lunch at Olive Garden, that’s in contrast to large trucking company’s Greyhound bus, cheap motel and junk fast food.

After lunch was taken to office to pick out my brand new truck. Been here almost 5 years now, still a very happy camper, they have done everything they said they’d do, I’ve kept my end of the deal running on time and still accident free.

I’ve driven for large companies in the past but never again.

Nix

Seems like the answer to your question is n-1. Where n=the number of interviews needed to secure employment with a boss worth working for.

If you aren’t covertly interviewing your potential boss at the same time they are interviewing you, you are doing interviews wrong. Not every employer is worthy of working for.

Loboc

Especially in a field like truck driving where they can’t get good candidates. The applicant is in the driver’s seat, so to speak.

Texas Leaf

The Cadillac Super Cruise doesn’t even require you to have your hands on the wheel. There is a camera that monitors your eye motion to see if you are attentive. And yes, I am more than capable to handle any emergency while in ProPilot with my hands resting on the bottom of the wheel.

I should point out that I only use ProPilot on highways with clearly marked lanes and not when I’m navigating difficult conditions. Assisted steering is a new technology. Driving schools and the DMVs way behind the curve when it comes to assisted steering.

Pushmi-Pullyu

The drive eye-tracking system Cadillac uses for Super Cruise certainly points the direction that I think most semi-self-driving cars will — or at least should — take in future developments. Including, hopefully, Tesla Autopilot/ AutoSteer.

Cadillac Super Cruise isn’t nearly as capable as Tesla Autopilot+AutoSteer, but within its more narrow capabilities, it works very well indeed.

Re-Volted

Yes, attention and hand gripping wheel. Never know when you might have to avoid a stationary big red fire truck!
Please excuse my snark but it’s true.

God/Bacardi

Dozens of these products have existed for years…If you know which sites sell knockoff products, you’ll find these “nag defeat” devices there…

Tom

Where?

John

Honestly, your valid points were lost due to your inability to keep it clean on an ELECTRIC CAR forum. You can thumbs me down, that’s fine, but come on- have a little decorum.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Yup. Strong language usually indicates a weak argument. I’m surprised to see this from Brave Lil’ Toaster, because his comments are usually worth reading.

Pushmi-Pullyu

The idea that anyone would intentionally defeat a driver’s safety protocol in a car reminds me of when a driver used to buckle the seat belt before sitting in the seat, and then sit on the seat belt, to defeat the safety interlock that was intended to force the driver to wear his seat belt! Fortunately, I think these days most people do understand that seat belts save lives, and don’t pull that incredibly dangerous stunt.

And not only is it brain-dead to defeat a safety protocol, it’s doubly brain-dead to spend $199 to defeat Tesla Autopilot’s test to see if you’re controlling the wheel, when you can just use an orange!

comment image

(Re the photo, to state the obvious: Don’t use this yourself to defeat the Autopilot test protocol! It’s incredibly dangerous!)

bro1999

How long can the company continue the “cell phone holder” charade? They seem to be begging to get sued by someone. Or are they using the same legal loophole that allows the Boring Co to sell the “Not a flamethrower” flamethrower legally?

Nix

How long can Airsoft sell their guns saying they aren’t a gun? Tesla can sell their “Not a flamethrower” for as long as they aren’t flamethrowers.

If you think anybody is actually buying a Tesla “flamethrower” for anything other than the blatantly obvious comedy value, then we’ve found that sucker that is born every minute, and it isn’t actual Tesla flamethrower buyers.

Scott Franco

Equally likely that they “repurposed” it as a cell phone holder because it does not work. Applying pressure to the wheel only does
not work. You have to jog the wheel up and down against the pressure of the autosteer for it to call it a hands on wheel detection (at least on an M3).

Kdawg

Yeah, I’ve been playing with Autopilot (2 week free trial), and man do you really have to squeeze the wheel and jostle it around sometimes for it to stop flashing blue. I’m not sure exactly what it’s looking for.

Scott Franco

The users manual says you have to move the wheel against the force of the computer, or at least give resistance when it attempts to turn the wheel. The famous (infamous) orange test implied that it used to use pressure sensors. That is what this “buddy” device was designed to provide.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Invalid conclusion. Does not follow.

The orange would provide off-center weight, dragging down that side of the wheel, which at least in theory should signal the system that it’s being held by someone’s hand. (I’m surprised that an orange that close to the middle would actually provide sufficient force, but it’s claimed that it does.) Ditto the “Autopilot Buddy”, which is just a bolt-on weight on one side of the wheel.

I don’t understand the claim from Kdawg (and others) that you have to squeeze the wheel. Does the wheel have pressure sensors in it? No, I don’t think so. On the other hand, he’s actually driven a Tesla car, and I haven’t, so maybe there’s something there I’m missing.

As someone pointed out above, the owner’s manual just says (basically) that you have to wiggle the wheel when the challenge/test comes up. I wonder why it is that we keep seeing these reports that you have to squeeze the wheel.

Kdawg

Well the message that comes up says “Apply light force to the wheel”. So I wasn’t sure if it was looking for grip force, or turning force.

OtteryLexa

I’m wondering how AP works with Steering aids for disabled drivers.