Car & Driver: Tesla Owns The Semi-Autonomous Car Market

The Tesla Model S is in a class of its own as far as semi-autonomous driving goes, according to a new article — one that pitted Tesla’s offering, in real-world conditions, against offerings from Mercedes, BMW, and Infiniti — from Car and Driver. To be more specific here, the 2015 Tesla Model S P85D was placed against the 2015 Infiniti Q50S, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz S65 AMGEN, and the 2016 BMW 750i xDrive.

As Tesla fans are likely to guess, the P85D blew away the competition as far as semi-autonomous driving went — providing a much smoother experience (no “wobbling” between, and over, the boundary lines of the road), far fewer interruptions calling for the driver to take over, and the ability to easily initiate semi-autonomous lane changes.

Autopilot restrictions

As noted in the article. the exact center of the lane seems to be identified easily by Tesla’s system, with the result being a much better performance than the other cars tested — where deviation from the center of the lane was an issue at points. There were only 29 interruptions to semi-autonomous driving during 50 miles of travel in the Model S P85D — as compared to nearly double that number in the BMW and Mercedes tested (the Infiniti had considerably more than that).

One has to wonder if this is primarily the result of Tesla’s crowd-source approach to incremental AI driving improvements. As he noted awhile back: “The whole Tesla fleet operates as a network. When one car learns something, they all learn it. That is beyond what other car companies are doing.”

Tesla does seem to have the market cornered in that aspect for now, though I’m sure that Google and Apple are taking similar approaches, and probably Nissan-Renault as well, I would guess.

Here’s an explanation of the testing regimen that was used, straight from Car and Driver:

As usual, our test regimen is a balanced mix of on-road evaluations and proving- grounds tests. Other than noting which car can and which can’t steer you snugly against a curb, we skipped automatic-parking maneuvers. All these cars and many others on the market keep watchful eyes on your blind spots, a second form of artificial intelligence we’re taking for granted here. To verify that adaptive cruise control works to maintain a safe interval between your car and the one immediately ahead when an intruder barges into your lane, we used a foam-filled Volkswagen Golf decoy owned by Bosch to supplement our over-the-road observations. Our main focus was automatic lane keeping: how well these four early semi-autonomous cars guide you safely and securely while relying on their electronic wits instead of the driver’s hands, eyes, and judgment. Using a 50-mile mix of freeway stretches, rural two-lanes, and city streets, we tabulated exactly how many guidance interruptions were caused by broken lane marks, inconsistent pavement patches, intersections, and exit and entrance ramps. We also noted when a car lost the lane-keeping sense for no apparent reason. Then we ranked the four contenders according to the number of control lapses each test car experienced.

I’d be curious to see how the Tesla Model S P85D would do on a second go of that trip — would the number of interruptions be notably lessened?

Tip of the hat to “30seconds” on the Tesla Motors Club forum.

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