A Tesla Model 3 recently went on an epic journey driving on the Linn Cove Viaduct on Autopilot. The host of Youtube’s The Tech of Tech wanted to put Tesla’s Autopilot to the ultimate torture test. It was rainy, foggy, and the journey was 45.9 miles long — along the historic Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. The trip started near the Thunder Hill Overlook, which is east of Blowing Rock, NC. There are two videos, a shortened one featuring highlights from the trip and the full, unedited version.
In a comment on Reddit, the driver shared more information about his vehicle. It’s a 2018 Tesla Model 3 AWD. He drove from his starting point (mentioned above) all the way to Bearwallo Gap, which is south of Little Switzerland. This journey included many spiral curves, the famous Linn Cove Viaduct, and “a few traffic hazards thrown in to keep things interesting.”
He also adjusted the maximum speed to accommodate visibility due to fog since Autopilot doesn’t know to automatically slow down for fog yet. Normally, Autopilot will shut off if it can’t see far enough for the speed. He also said that this wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the new slowing behavior around curves in the new 2020.16.2.1 update. He’d also recently upgraded to the Full Self Driving (FSD) computer, commonly known as HW3.
Linn Cove Viaduct
One flaw he did note was an error with the speed limit at one point — Autopilot thought the top speed for a portion of the road was 35 mph when it was 45 mph. On a foggy day, it’s not that big of a deal, but it’s an issue to be resolved. Another flaw was that Autopilot would drive right through potholes. [Editor’s note: This is the #1 issue with Autopilot that I’m skeptical about Tesla solving. Luckily, it’s not a critical issue, but it is annoying and probably the top reason I take my Model 3 out of Autopilot. —Zach]
“Driving through these potholes made me tense up more than driving on the viaducts,” he said. The Linn Cove Viaduct is a 1,243 feet long concrete bridge that hugs Grandfather Mountain leaving drivers to view a stunning, open view. Grandfather Mountain is geologically the most ancient mountain on the North American continent.
One small adventure that Autopilot encountered is a flatbed pickup backing up into the driver’s lane. Autopilot saw it, but the driver of the truck pulled off the road and out of the way before any action was necessary. One thing that Tech of Tech’s video noted was that Autopilot hugs the right side of the lane on right-hand turns just like a human driver would.
This was a feature that many people requested, but for this trip, it proved to be a downfall. The host notes that, as with all new features, Autopilot will need some tweaking and will get better again with future updates. Unfortunately, Autopilot was hugging the right side too much and he had to take over as soon as he felt the tire tread leaving the pavement.
This is a major achievement for Tesla’s Autopilot. Not only was he able to allow the car to drive itself along viaducts including the Linn Cove, but Autopilot also navigated tunnels with no issue. The Little Switzerland Tunnel is 547 feet long and he noted that it got really dark but Autopilot was able to handle it.
Think about the following statement: A car is now able to drive along viaducts and inside tunnels without the uncertainty of a human driver filled with emotions. I know many people who are terrified of driving along bridges. I personally find them fascinating. Growing up in Shreveport, I used to walk across the Texas Street Bridge all the time. It crosses the Red River from Shreveport into Bossier. Most of my friends thought I was nuts for doing that, but to each their own.
The fact that a car can drive itself is a major achievement all in itself. Soon, we will have self-driving cars that are safe and reliable.