The Best Self-Driving Car? It’s Not Tesla

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has long argued that his company's semi-autonomous driving systems are tops. But Consumer Reports has a different opinion.

Credit: Cadillac

(Image credit: Cadillac)

In its first ranking of automated driving systems, Consumer Reports said that the technology inside Cadillac's CT6 topped what you'd find in the Tesla X, Tesla S, and Tesla 3. Cadillac's car was behind Tesla's on "capability and performance" and "ease of use," but easily topped Tesla's vehicles in "clear when safe to use," "keeping driver engaged," and "unresponsive driver."

Consumer Reports said Nissan's ProPilot Assist and Volvo's Pilot Assist rounded out the top four. However, both of those technologies earned extremely low marks in many of the categories in which they were evaluated.

Consumer Reports evaluated the self-driving systems on a variety of metrics. The organization, which tests a variety of products, graded the systems based on how well they performed, how well they analyzed driver engagement, and whether they would quickly respond in cases where driver safety could be in danger. Consumer Reports also analyzed whether the systems could effectively communicate to the driver both how to use the technology and when they needed to interact with the car.

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To be clear, the systems Consumer Reports analyzed do not have true self-driving technology. Instead, the technologies are semi-autonomous driving systems that allow you to operate your car with less, but not no, input. The features are especially useful when driving along stretches of highway, but not necessarily best for driving in heavy traffic in a city.

While Cadillac won the first test, it's important to note that none of the technologies scored perfect marks. Indeed, the highest ranking, a green bubble with two chevrons, proved unattainable in the study. And that alone suggests the systems have value, but shouldn't be relied upon for full driving.

“Stacked up against each other, you can really see significant differences," Consumer Reports said in a statement. "The best systems balance capability with safeguards—making driving easier and less stressful in the right situations. Without proper safeguards, overreliance on the system is too easy, which puts drivers at risk.” 

Don Reisinger is CEO and founder of D2 Tech Agency. A communications strategist, consultant, and copywriter, Don has also written for many leading technology and business publications including CNET, Fortune Magazine, The New York Times, Forbes, Computerworld, Digital Trends, TechCrunch and Slashgear. He has also written for Tom's Guide for many years, contributing hundreds of articles on everything from phones to games to streaming and smart home.