Tesla has started rolling out the software update that brings the latest version of Autopilot to its vehicles, including the Navigate on Autopilot feature. This brings the capability to provide driver assistance from the freeway onramp to the freeway offramp.
As it has made its way out into the wild, drivers are eagerly sharing their first impressions on the web. Redditor brizzo took to the interworld to share his first impressions of the update in his Tesla and how it has performed so far. Right off the bat, he summarizes the update as “many steps forward for AP” and adds that it “definitely shows a path towards FSD.”
That is encouraging, but is also exactly what we expect from Tesla based on its previous statements (Elon Musk’s previous statements) and deployment of the solution over the last 3 years. On that note, though, it is impressive to see how far the company has come with its Autopilot solution in just 3 years. Can you believe the first Tesla vehicles rolled off the line with AP hardware only 3 years ago?
Mobileye has come and gone, Tesla spooled up its own hardware solution and iterated through a number of variants along the way. In parallel, it developed its own backward-compatible computer that will underpin the solution and drastically improve Autopilot’s ability to interpret images coming in from the onboard cameras.
Building on that foundation, Navigate on Autopilot connects the vehicle’s onboard navigation system with the Autopilot solution to give Autopilot the capability to guide the car from a freeway onramp to the offramp preferred by the navigation route.
brizzo noted that the vehicle actually takes the exit without requesting any confirmation from the driver, which came as a bit of a shock. He noted that the car asks for confirmation to perform the smaller task of changing lanes but just hooks off the freeway like it’s no big deal.
(Tesla also created a video for Navigate on Autopilot for Model S and X.)
When Navigate on Autopilot determines that a lane change would best optimize the route, it prompts the driver to confirm the lane change by tapping the turn signal in the appropriate direction. Elon Musk noted that the confirmation of a lane change will only be required for the first few million miles of the solution running in production, then it will be able to change lanes without confirmation.
brizzo noted that the way the vehicle merges into a new lane is impressive. That’s reassuring, as it’s one thing to let the wheel go and let Autopilot keep the car in a single lane but something else to watch it weaving between traffic. Merging is complicated. This new functionality coming with Navigate on Autopilot is the first time Autopilot takes the car out of the lane and into a new wilderness. From what I can tell here in Southern California, merging is something that the vast majority of adult drivers cannot comprehend or execute politely.
He noted that the clearances were tighter than he expected, but made no mention about whether or not he had enabled Mad Max Mode, which presumably will allow for even tighter clearances, which are practically necessary in heavy traffic in most urban areas. When multiple lane changes are needed, the solution starts to move over about 1 lane per mile of travel. For instance, if a merge across 4 lanes is required, it will start moving towards the correct lane 4 miles ahead.
He said that the visuals that accompany the solution help the driver see what the solution is planning to do, which makes giving into the automated system easier. From his experience, adding audio cues would make the process even better, as looking away from the road to the screen doesn’t add value to the experience and could just as easily be accomplished with an audio cue for some of the alerts.
On the freeway, the system is much more capable of handling traffic situations where two lanes merge. In the previous implementation of Autopilot, the solution would often get confused about which line to follow and not merge with traffic intuitively. The new version of Autopilot is now capable of merging with traffic more intuitively — though, brizzo said that more time was needed to see how the system performs in a wider range of scenarios.
System disengagement happens when the car starts to take the offramp. At that point, it notifies the driver that Navigate on Autopilot is ending in a certain distance — an audible chime notifies the driver that the system has reverted back to regular Autopilot.
The video below from another user shows a bit of the Navigate on Autopilot process along a stretch of the 101 freeway in San Luis Obispo near the famous Madonna Inn. See below.
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