What Driving A Tesla Model S With Autosteer Is Like (Videos)

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Originally published on Gas2.

Before Tesla began downloading Version 7.0 of its firmware on October 15, it allowed a few journalists to drive a Tesla Model S with Autosteer enabled in New York City traffic. Why, I have no idea. The Autosteer system is intended for use on the highway, not dodging taxis and pizza delivery people on West 29th Street. It cannot recognize traffic lights or stop signs yet (it will soon), and who needs cruise control in the city anyway?

Firmware Version 7.0 will allow the car’s computers to coordinate the data it receives from the forward radar, forward-facing camera, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and GPS to control its direction, speed, steering, and brakes. It enables lane keeping, automatic lane changes, and adaptive cruise control. It also warns the driver of other cars or objects nearby that may pose a danger. Lastly, it allows the car to identify an available parking space and then guide itself into it.

According to the Tesla website, “Tesla Autopilot relieves drivers of the most tedious and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel. We’re building Autopilot to give you more confidence behind the wheel, increase your safety on the road, and make highway driving more enjoyable. The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car. What’s more, you always have intuitive access to the information your car is using to inform its actions.”

Tesla says that, because every Model S is always connected to the internet, the cars form a sort of artificial intelligence network. “These mutually reinforcing systems (radar, camera, sensors, and GPS) offer real time data feedback from the Tesla fleet, ensuring that the system is continually learning and improving upon itself.” Now that’s some space age stuff, Elon!

Here’s another video of the Model S with Autosteer navigating through New York traffic.

Tesla is committed to keeping every car ever built as up to date as possible. Thanks to its wireless software download capability, even cars that do not have the autonomous driving hardware built in will benefit from the new Version 7.0 firmware.

“This release also features the most significant visual refresh yet of the digital displays for every single Model S around the world. The Instrument Panel is focused on the driver and includes more functional apps to help monitor your ride. We will continue to develop new capabilities and deliver them through over-the-air software updates, keeping our customers at the forefront of driving technology in the years ahead.”

Tesla may not be able to get the parts to build its Model X SUV from its suppliers, but it is light years ahead of the competition when it comes to autonomous driving systems.

Reprinted with permission.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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41 thoughts on “What Driving A Tesla Model S With Autosteer Is Like (Videos)

  • This and other similar software will eliminate a number of jobs for drivers in the future. My insurance company thinks that very soon, the software will be driving down the accident rates.

    • Full automation also shifts the liability to automakers. Automakers will have liability related expenses, but they will not buy insurance.

      • A few automakers like Volvo DID buy insurance.

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    • Professional drivers need to take note… because they should not expect sympathy when the wage/benefits start getting reduced, or shifts get shorter, or they get laid off. They have a few years to start getting retrained for something different.
      I refuse to consider professional driver as a skilled trade, when I know a computer can do it consistently better.

      • London cabbies are, but they are an exception.

        (Look into their training and qualification requirements sometime.)

      • Don’t worry, Joe, I’ll program a computer to give them the sympathy that you can’t.

      • The computer can’t do it. It tends to veer into incoming traffic when not in an environment that it is not designed for (search for a video for that). Highway driving is probably the easiest thing to automate since there’s no incoming traffic or cross traffic or bikes or pedestrians, although that depends on the highway. Even there, the computer can’t replace a human any time soon.

  • I dream of the day all cars are computer driven.

    • I dream of the day where I can just walk on a vehicle shared with other people and it would send me to my destination.

  • “…but it (Tesla) is light years ahead of the competition when it comes to autonomous driving systems.”

    No, no…..and no. Many companies appear to be about at the same place – the equivalent of a diligent seven year old who is willing to drive.

    Mercedes and others mostly have that seven year old watch out for problems such as leaving the lane and warn the driver. Tesla lets that seven year old drive, with the intention that the adult will snatch the wheel when the seven year old freaks out.

    Tesla is willing to let customers use software that major automakers think isn’t ready for drivers. That is not being “light years ahead”. It is easy to find what the majors have developed if you look.

    • Tesla is willing to let customers use software that major automakers think isn’t ready for drivers. That is not being “way ahead”.

      That certainly means way ahead. The failure and success of autonomous driving lies in the details… if automakers don’t think their tech is ready for the open road… then they obviously don’t have confidence in their product. Tesla leapfrogged them.

      • I watch the first long video of autopilot this morning and I can’t believe they released this software. It is a joy ride by a seven year old at highway speeds.

        • Umm… what are you talking about? Nothing was unsafe in those videos.

      • You seem to not know that Tesla is using hardware and software from Mobileye, as are other auto manufacturers.

        • They are using Panasonic cells too. So what? A product is more than just the sum of its components.

          Yes,I did know that.

          Did you listen to the recent conference call? Did YOU know that Tesla has an autopilot team of about 50 people just working on software.. And 100 more on the autopilot hardware ?

          We don’t really know to what extent Mobileye is still involved. Just like AC Propulsion was involved in the initial Roaster drive train… But ultimately Tesla brought it all in-house.

          • How special! A true fanboy.

          • You started really special, a true hater.

          • Now, now. I reserve that sort of name calling for my own personal use.

            (Cool it down. You guys both know stuff. Talk ideas and facts.)

    • ” when the seven year old freaks out”

      Is not the seven year old programmed to pull to the side and stop when it freaks out?

      Sort of putting itself into a time out….

  • In 2013, 32,719 people died in traffic crashes.


    That is the same casualty rate of a 9/11 attack EVERY MONTH!

    This shift to autonomous driving is the start of something along the lines of curing a major disease. People easily forget how badly we need this, because we’ve gotten so used to it.

    • All depends on how the programming is done. Autonomous driving could just as easily be robot death cars running over pedestrians even MORE often.

      Programming isn’t magic. It just substitutes the programmer’s judgment for that of the driver. Do I trust Tesla’s programmers? No way in hell. I don’t trust Google’s programmers either.

      This sort of code needs to be (a) published, and (b) reviewed regularly by experts. *Then* I’d trust it.

      • I don’t trust your driving judgement. Nor do I trust any teenager getting a license, nor any senior citizen.

  • And in the meantime, the rest of us are driving the modern day equivalent of a horse and buggy. Though most of us don’t realize this yet.

  • Here’s a crop out of an email I received today. (Unfortunately for me I don’t own a Tesla.)

  • this is a small step for a car driver but a giant leap for society.

    this day could well be the real start of self driving cars in the street with regular persons!

    i hope tesla knows what it is doing and there will be made no errors. people are realy bad at waiting and taking over when needed.

    in about a month in Holland there will be a self driving bus which will fully self drive through regular traffic.

    how long will it take for selvedring to take over??

  • Distracted driving causes a lot of collisions. Until computers can be trusted to do 100% of the driving, I think this may increase the amount of distracted driving and collisions. The journalist made the point that the person behind the wheel is still responsible for driving the car. I wonder if Tesla has performed any testing as to how much less attention is paid to driving with this computer control.

    • “Distracted driving causes a lot of collisions. Until computers can be trusted to do 100% of the driving, I think this may increase the amount of distracted driving and collisions.”

      I don’t follow your thinking here. Seems to me that with “part time self-driving” like Tesla has implemented there are two states – 1) car is driving itself and 2) driver is driving car.

      It’s very likely that there will be fewer accidents when the car is driving itself.

      The number might decline when the driver is in control, they might be more rested and/or their sense of needing to pay attention might be higher. After all, because they are having to take over they’ve been told that this section of driving is too difficult for the computer – you better watch out.

      Think about a 3 hour slog down the interstate. Same old same old mile after mile. Driver starts to zone out. Computer won’t.

      Car reaches a point where some road work is happening. Maybe there’s a flagger moving traffic off on the shoulder for a short distance. Car hands control back to driver and driver’s attention is likely to be highly focused.

      • I hope what you say is true. My fear would be that the driver runs into the flagman because she/he was doing something distracting like, electric shaving, reading the newspaper, putting on makeup, etc. all of which have happened in cars even without computer assist. The thought occurred to me that maybe this feature needs something like the “dead man’s throttle” that locomotives have. That would be that periodically the car would need some driver input to ensure that they are paying attention. I applaud this research and do hope that as all circumstances are taken into account the system will be refined enough to be trust 100% of the time.

        • I’m pretty sure that the cars are programmed to alert the driver that the driver needs to take over. If that doesn’t happen the car turns on its warning lights, slows, pulls to the side of the road and parks.

          If there’s a really good auto-driving system then there’s no need for drivers to pay attention until the car calls them to duty.

          I suspect Tesla has tested the hell out of their system. Haven’t they driven more than one million miles with their system so far?

          • I suspect you’re right. But it is still a gutsy move. It may be an answer to a question that wasn’t asked. I’m almost certain, eventually the concept and responsibility of liability will end up in the courts.

          • Well, if Tesla states that the driver has a responsibility to attend I don’t think a lawsuit would get very far.

            Even if the software failed to pull the car over and stop it I don’t think the driver could lay the cause of a crash off on Tesla if the driver was asleep in the back seat or even looking out the side window.

            Has anyone won a suit because their cruise control was on when they rear ended another car?

          • The cruise control analogy is apt. Drivers were always responsible to brake even when the system could be driven without feet.

          • I suppose only if the cruise control proved defective. Let’s hope Tesla has enough redundancy to never have a failure.

          • True. I wonder how many layers of ‘fail safe’ are built in. These systems should be in use for decades although the software is easily upgraded.

  • Computer vs. Human…. vs. Deer:

    The car can know the weight, velocity, tire pressure, suspension travel, road surface friction, and road grade/condition MUCH better than a human… also can process all this information MUCH faster, and can spot the deer with much more reliability (even in the dark when a human has to notice the reflective eyes of a deer)… and can react MUCH faster than a human who has lift from one pedal to press the brake.

    Lots of variables…. and humans take years of experience to get it right with any reasonable measure of safety. Humans cannot really be taught this during day 1 when issued a drivers license.

    But a computer has the benefit of having inherent experience of previous versions and the collective experience of every other vehicle that is sharing data.

    This is all evident by the two (universally) worst driving demographics…. teenagers and seniors. One lacks the experience and the other has diminished sensory capabilities and reaction time. (notice that drunks fit neatly into one of these categories)

    Computers don’t degrade like the minds of seniors, and fully benefit from day 1 with the collective experience of the past.

    It becomes the instant, “I know Kung-Fu” moment.

    • One of the things that intrigues me is how the EVs will communicate with each other.

      A problem miles ahead can be known instantly and adjustments made. The car can suggest a route around, some interesting places to stop while things clear up, schedule a charge early. Adjust your arrival time estimate based on the delay and have your phone message the people who need to know.

      • Not gonna happen. I’ve seen too many attempts at systems like that. Humans are a lot better at that sort of stuff than computers. Frankly, what’ll most likely happen is that all the cars on the road will suggest the SAME alternate route, which will create a traffic jam, which… you get the picture. It’s a harder problem than it first appears to be.

    • I am quite sure that the current automated systems are much worse at spotting deer than I am. I’m also quite sure that they’ll continue to be worse for decades. The art of being a rural driver involves spotting the deer while they’re still 10 feet away from the side of the road….

      On the other hand, 2/3 of the people currently driving are grossly incompetent tailgaters who shouldn’t have driver’s licenses, so anything to keep them from crashing into me is good.

      • I’ve been a rural driver almost all my life.

        I call BS on your deer claims. I drive narrow mountain roads. One needs two sets of eyes, one looking at each side of the road. Eyes with built in heat sensors.

      • Everyone thinks they are a good driver. Chances are, YOU are part of the 2/3rds that shouldn’t be trusted on the road.

Comments are closed.