Tesla pushed autopilot to all capable Model S vehicles out in the wild with the past few weeks, and fairly quickly, reports started coming in of how it was still a bit rough around the edges, trying to veer off on an exit ramp from the slow lane on the freeway, veering into traffic, and even getting some users a ticket, though I wouldn’t blame that one on autopilot 🙂 That’s unfortunate, but even more powerful than those tales are of the many close calls — or rather, accidents that would have happened — that were prevented by the Tesla Model S’s advanced sensing and safety features.
It’s one thing for a car to drive me to work… “thanks for letting me check facebook while driving…” but it’s a completely different thing to save someone’s life and prevent accidents. We shared how Jeffrey Katzenberg related his near-death accident and gushed about how Elon Musk saved his life.
Tesla Motors Club members are reporting en masse that the autopilot function in their Teslas continues to improve — on a daily basis — without receiving formal updates. This hints to the fact that the cars do share what they learn, the routes they drive, the speeds they drive them at, the wheel position, etc, on the fly — as was basically shared earlier. What’s impressive about formalizing these findings is that it is also using the learnings from previous trips on its own. This either hints at some pretty solid artificial intelligence (AI) that tracks what routes the humans take and tries to emulate those, or continual software updates with learnings from all users being shared back to the masses in real-time. On top of this, the rate at which it’s improving is astounding, which leads me to believe that this is more of an AI or self-teaching AI that improves based on its own learnings (for today). I fully expect this to start tapping the cloud — the central brain trust of all the collective learnings — but couldn’t imagine they would want to go live with that volume of a change just yet.
Either way, this ultimately means that the day-to-day autopilot experience continues to improve, which is insanely good for Tesla owners today and more so for future Tesla owners, as this enables Tesla to round off the rough edges from autopilot faster and faster as more autopilot-enabled Teslas get onto the road. They will log more and more miles, learn that much more, and ultimately be that much farther ahead of the other auto manufacturers. Kinda makes me smile after learning that auto manufacturers have been actively and successfully lobbying against high-efficiency and zero-emission vehicles for the better part of the last 2 decades. This truly is “The Revenge of the Electric Car.”
Reading through the forum pages (11 as of this writing), there are countless stories of how it “feels” like it’s improving but with enough solid stories to lend credibility to them. TMC forum member “mobe” relates a story with a healthy amount of detail that sums up one of the key improvement areas over the last few days:
“So far I have a little over 300 miles on autopilot, mostly 20 miles at a time on my commute to and from work.
The first day when I was in the right lane, as I approached exit ramps, it would dive for the exit ramp. I quickly learned to apply torque to the wheel to hold the car on the interstate until I had passed the exit.
Each day the system seems to have less tendency to follow the exit ramps as I pass.
The last two days it only gave a momentary wiggle and moved over maybe six inches towards the exit ramp then it recovered and moved on down the road.
This morning it gave only a very slight hesitation, so little that I did not have to correct it at all. I find it remarkable that it is improving this rapidly.
I wonder if it is getting more information on this section of road or if it is changing how it reacts to any exit ramp?
This car and this company continue to impress.”
Looks like somebody has some serious hat eating in their future after doubling down on the deal…