An analyst for the notable market investment website The Motley Fool recently got the chance to try Tesla’s Autopilot feature out on a long stretch of highway (exactly the circumstance that the feature was designed for, as correctly noted in the article). So, how did the Autopilot technology perform when used the way it’s intended to be, you ask?
Essentially, perfectly. Corroborating much of what’s been said by Tesla owners on the internet over recent months — when used as designed, the feature is quite a useful one. (I’m aware that there have occasionally been issues with off-ramps, construction, etc.)
The Motley Fool analyst who was testing the Autopilot feature (in a Tesla Model S P90D) only took over 61 miles into the trip, after a semi-truck veered over into his lane — rather than waiting to see what the car would do, he sensibly took control and put himself in a safer position.
Here are some of the highlights of the article:
The goal was to head south from Monument toward Colorado City to see how far I could drive without taking control of the wheel or touching the pedals with my feet. I thought I’d be lucky to make it through the entire stretch of Colorado Springs, which includes three- and two-lane highway driving and at least one construction zone. So, I figured there would be no need to plan for anything further than Colorado City, which was about 87 miles away from my starting point.
I certainly wasn’t going to take any risks on this trip. And this wasn’t just because I was borrowing a fully loaded P90D Model S with a price tag well over $100,000. I was cautious because I simply wasn’t sure if I trusted sensors and computers navigating for me through traffic on a route this long — even if the weather was great and the lane markings were clear. So, you can bet I was ready to grab the wheel if the vehicle started to do something I didn’t like. But Model S handled itself like a champ.
In a 61-mile drive, which passed through several cities, including the 27-mile-long stretch of Colorado Springs, I didn’t have to steer or use the pedals a single time. I even changed lanes when I normally would have — though by a tap of the blinker each time instead of by turning the wheel.
Other cars on the road would have never guessed it wasn’t a human driving. Model S slowed when slower vehicles cut in front of me, sped up when they moved, and accelerated with eerily human-like driving skills amid lane changes when passing vehicles. And it avoided off-ramps when I was in the right lane — even when there were no markings to separate my lane from the off-ramp.
…After letting a Tesla drive me for 61 miles, I’m convinced autonomous production cars may come sooner than we think.
The article is a rather interesting one, coming from the perspective of someone new to firsthand experience with autonomous driving technology, who also doesn’t seem to be a fanboy. Good read for those with the time.