Autonomous Vehicles

Published on February 13th, 2016 | by Cynthia Shahan


Tesla Autopilot Ultrasonic Sensors Handle Difficult Merging Event (Video)

February 13th, 2016 by  

Originally published on EV Obsession.

Indeed, humans need help on the road. Automobile accidents take people’s lives away every day. Anyone on the road sees collisions all too often. Driving demands split-second judgement and navigation in streams of fast-flowing traffic. On a positive note, automakers are implementing autonomous driving hardware and software to cut down on such human challenges and accidents, led by Tesla.

Moving by smashed cars in the scenes I’ve witnessed, I note the fragility of human life. Things may change. We can hope. Autonomous cars mean more sensors to catch surrounding movements, to see through the fog, to brake at the sign of an animal or pedestrian. If one survives a messy accident, there is often years of rehabilitation required. Perhaps we will find a decrease in such long-term and permanent injury, along with a drop in air pollution, thanks to autonomous EVs.

Garth Woodworth of Teslarati describes one of his more interesting experiences with Tesla’s Autopilot in the video below.

Woodworth highlights: “My goal for the day was to video the lane changing feature of the Autopilot, and that’s why my cameras were running. Even so, this situation provides an interesting follow-up to my previous video on the ultrasonic sensors as experienced in the perpendicular parking feature.” Woodworth repeated the perpendicular parking test eight times in the same parking spot (as used in the video) and was sure of the accuracy of the sensor software by the end.


Returning to the difficult merging, “The video begins with a red truck normally passing while the two lanes continue well ahead of his passing location. Following that truck, the driver of a Toyota decides to pass, but his decision to do so is too late. Well before he reaches the rear of my car, the lane-marking between the two lanes has disappeared, and his pass will take place entirely in a one lane section of road that is predictably narrowing to a standard lane width.”

Describing this situation where two lanes merge to one, he notes, “the usual behaviour of the AP is to hug the outside lane and, after the lane-divider marking is gone, allow itself be shepherded by the converging outer lane-marking toward the centre lane marking as the road narrows.” He shares that the combo of his control with the car’s AP is still necessary at times. He watched this time and was happy with the result. Quite impressive, indeed.

Something I wasn’t aware of before, but is quite impressive as well, is how the Tesla’s adjust their placement within lanes based on other cars: “When the Tesla is in the centre lane with traffic on both sides of it. If the lanes are narrow, the AP stays within the lane-markings as general guidance, but as the sensors pick up the vehicles on either side, it adjusts its position within the lane, so it is more or less equal distant from each flanking vehicle.”

The Teslas treat parking in a similar way. Woodworth summarizes, “there is no question that the AP is programmed to give greater priority to avoiding contact with the vehicle than transgressing the lane-marking.”

Wondering how much the attention span one must provide to spot the decision of when to take over? Buy or lease a Tesla to find out.

Related Stories:

Tesla Autopilot In Rain — Better Than Expected (Video)

Elon Musk: Level 4 Autonomous Driving (Full Autonomy) Will Be Possible Within 2 Years

Here’s What Tesla Autopilot Sees With Video

How Soon Will Tesla Know If AutoPilot Decreases Auto Accident Rates

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About the Author

is a Mother, an Organic Farmer, Licensed Acupuncturist, Anthropology Studies, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings who have lit the way for me for decades.

  • markogts

    IMHO the AP choice was wrong. In similar situations, I prefer to be assertive. Left blinker, get the lane and stop that guy overtaking, before he even tries. The AP got in a more dangerous situation than a human driver would.

    • cynthia Irene

      Thanks for sharing this. The ideal is a combo of both driver and AP. Thus if driver fails at least the vehicle might follow through correctly. However, safety and the most efficient means of promoting safety — as in this case, is what counts. Driver is better it sounds from your experience.

      • markogts

        Well, depends on the driver. A good driver with good situational awareness is better than an AP. Unfortunately, the average may be lower. People get distracted, get old, people don’t know roads, don’t know the car they are driving… So, in geral, I think AP will reduce accidents. But we will be slower and less efficient.

        However, for me no AP, thanks. I love the cruise control and anything that can reduce the task/workload management and improve the aforementioned situational awareness; give me better clues of what is happening around, through radar, HUD etc, but leave me decide what to do. Basically, I didn’t find an automatic climate control that satisfies me yet, let alone auto lights, auto-dimming mirrors or auto wipers. Definitely, no AP for me, until I’m 80 at least.

        • Bob_Wallace

          How well do you see in all directions at once?

          Are you eyes able to see through fog when no one else can?

          Are you able to communicate with the other cars around you so that you know their intentions before they make any obvious move?

          How did you get your superpowers?

          • markogts

            Just read carefully what I wrote:

            “I love(…) anything that can(…) improve the (…) situational awareness.”

            I want to be in charge of the decisions, at least until I see AP having so much artificial intelligence and human behavior understanding to do a better job than myself. Don’t confuse the sensors that come with AP with the brain of the AP.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m familiar with the human brain. And I know it fails to maintain concentration 100% of the time.

            Of course that does not apply to you. You are, based on self-reporting, apparently super human…. ;o)

          • markogts

            It must be that I’m not native english. Seems like you read things I never wrote, or even the opposite. No point in discussing further.

    • I also don’t consider this ideal handling. It’s obvious the autopilot isn’t designed to anticipate lanes ending / merging. It made these decisions based on the lines and the vehicles around it alone. It instead should have looked ahead, saw the lane ending, and pulled in behind the truck proactively. It probably should have started that process by reading roadsigns regarding the lane ending as well. I’m surprised it didn’t start doing the “I give up” alarm given how close that car was.

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