Tesla Autopilot 2.0 – not impressed yet

Tags

,

Before anyone jumps down my throat, I’m a huge Tesla fan and have 80K miles on my S and a 3 on reserve. I’ve done blogs (teslaliving.net), web apps (evtripping.com) and mobile apps (Teslab) for the community as well as a lot of Twitter and other promotion. Now on to the commentary 🙂
I finally got a loaner with autopilot (90D, AP2) when my car was in for service (first one I had to pay for a fix for) the other day. I got to spend about 3 hours with the loaner over 2 days and over 120 miles on highways and backroads and in a lot of Boston traffic. This was the first time I had any time (other than a quick test drive on an X when it launched) with Autopilot or any form so I can’t comment on AP1 vs AP2.
The car had software version 8.1 (17.17.17) on it and only 234 miles on the odometer before I got a hold of it.

TACC (Traffic Aware Cruise Control)

This was by far my favorite feature that I don’t have on my Model S:
  • Absolutely wonderful on the highways.
  • Really decent on divided/well-marked roads with a few odd decelerations at times.
  • Not good on busy city streets (no surprise) – would not recommend using it in these situations.

While it did seem to slow down at times for various speed limit changes in some pattern I couldn’t figure out, it didn’t seem to track the speed limits — accelerate up to the speed limit (or my offset) and then slow down to the speed limit (or offset). It was mostly what others call adaptive cruise control and was well done. It would be even better if it adapted better to changing speed limits.

Adaptive high beams

I didn’t get a ton of time with these at night but overall they’re also a nice addition over my Model S:

  • Living out in the country, I always use high beams when I can and it’s nice to have the car do it automatically for me and pretty well.
  • I wish I could tune the sensitivity etc on it to my tastes as there were a few timings/sensitivities I would have adjusted to suit how I would have done it myself.

Summon

I think Summon was disabled on my loaner as I couldn’t get it to work with any of the summon forms available. In theory, you can use the app (not on a loaner), the FOB (didn’t work) or the gear stalk to engage it. Neither of the latter two worked and there were no messages or warnings that it was disabled.

If Summon or other features are disabled for some reason I believe the car should let you know somewhere and definitely when you try to engage/use the feature. I would have liked to have seen how it could handle backing into my garage as thats what i’ll need to do with the Model 3 when I get it.

Autopilot

On to the main course. I was really interested in seeing just how smart autopilot was and what all the excitement was about. My observations:

  • Highways with heavy traffic:
    • Decent but mostly due to TACC
    • With a lot of traffic, it was wonderful. It took me some time to find the right position to place my hand and hold the steering wheel comfortably while letting the car do its thing. I settled for a “hand on right knee pinch wheel” approach.
    • With speed ups and slow downs, it did very well and was helpful and took a lot of stress out of this ugly part of highway driving. This was more due to TACC than AP but it handled one more thing.
  • Highways with light to moderate traffic:
    • With a clear road, it nice and steady and tracked the road well
    • With a road with some cars but passing at speed, people changing lanes etc it was concerning at times. It rode too close to the left line, didn’t seem to see cars coming up from behind left or right until too late, didn’t accelerate as people moved over until really late, the automatic lane changes were a tad too slow, etc.
    • It tried to take several exits I didn’t want to take even though the NAV was set to continue on the road and all traffic in front was staying on the same road.
    • It was decent but had definite room for improvement.
  • Non-highway use:
    • It was scary/bad/horrifying off highways
    • I’ll compare this to a roller coaster ride. You know you’re in for an exciting ride, please pay attention and be prepared to take control at any random time. Don’t use if you’re not ready for some excitement.
    • On these rural roads, seemingly for no reason, it would veer sharply and quickly one way or another (perhaps based on shadows, line changes for turning lanes, potholes etc).
    • It would not follow the road I was on and would try to go left or right or get in a panic asking me to take over at times
    • It would abruptly slow down at random points. These could definitely lead to rear-end collisions if you’re not careful.
    • If I wasn’t totally on top of it I would definitely have had several accidents.
    • These were 35mph+ roads, with a clear dividing line and varying lines or edges on the right. Nothing fancy.
    • Overall, off highway, I found AP2 to be a failure although fun (in a crazy sort of way) to play with.

Summary

Lane keeping (including around turns on highways) and adaptive cruise control on highways are pretty standard on many cars these days. Those were the two equivalent things that I thought AP2 did well. The rest it really didn’t do well. I’m hoping this is still AP2 trying to catch up to AP1 and there’s a higher level of capability that AP1 is capable of. That or Tesla has a LONG way to go.
Overall I’m not sure why people are so excited about Autopilot on the Model S right now. I see the future and would definitely get it on my next car but its use in AP2 right now seems basically limited to what other cars also offer.
I love the S and think it’s great without autopilot. Autopilot, in some cases, definitely adds value but I worry about those that may come to Tesla just for AP and be underwhelmed.