As I wrote a few hours ago, Tesla’s new V10 software is rolling out to Early Access program members and I happened to land in one of those people’s cars. I wrote a quick summary of my first impressions of many of the new features in that article, but it seemed like improvements to Autopilot warranted their own dedicated piece.
The improvements seem to fall into two categories: 1) the touchscreen visualizations for the driver, and 2) the car’s ability to naturally drive itself.
As you can see in the picture above, a note about the update indicates that some visualizations have been improved. Most notably, Automatic Lane Change gets visualized much more strongly and clearly in V10 of the Tesla software. As I rode along in a car with early access to this software, I watched and photographed the visualization in action. Here are a few sequential shots of the touchscreen as the car changed lanes on its own:
As the car initiates the lane change, the lane you’re moving into turns blue (on the touchscreen, not in real life), and then after the car completes the lane change, the lane you moved into turns back into a white road with blue lane markings on either side.
Something you don’t see here is that the lane change apparently happens a bit more smoothly than in the past. Frankly, at this point, Tesla cars are nailing this move. In the 2015 Tesla Model S I owned with version 1 Autopilot hardware (Mobileye hardware), automatically changing lanes was sort of neat when it worked but too unnatural to use much — I almost always preferred doing it manually. When I first test drove a Model 3 last year, I noticed the system had gotten much better. Autopilot was more refined in general, including when it came to changing lanes. That was part of the reason I wrote an article titled, “Sorry, Elon — Tesla Model 3 Much Better Than I Expected,” which Elon kindly retweeted. (I assume that meant he accepted my apology.) When I test drove a newer Model 3 a few months later, either I noticed further improvement or the Tesla sales advisor I rode with noted that Autopilot had again improved in this regard (I forget now if I noticed it while driving or just absorbed his insight).
As I’ve been driving around in our new Tesla Model 3 in the past few weeks (which has the newest self-driving computer), it has been clear that the Automatic Lane Change feature has gotten much more refined. I prefer using it over changing lanes myself in about half of cases, since it is better and smoother than me and also leaves me more mental capacity and physical flexibility to observe the car’s surroundings while it is moving over. (I still prefer changing lanes myself when in a tight spot or when I need to accelerate quickly to get around cars or to avoid a car approaching from the back.
Aside from the lane changes, the person whose car I was riding in today noted that the update has led to better Autopilot acceleration from a dead stop. With pre-V10 software (the software currently in my car), the Model 3 accelerates quite slowly/cautiously when departing from a red light or stop sign. As a result, I generally step on the accelerator myself until going with the flow of traffic. (This just takes a few seconds, but it’s obviously a situation in which the Autopilot suite isn’t acting the same as a normal human driver.) For better or worse (I presume better), the V10 update speeds up the process enough that it feels natural and the driver shouldn’t feel a need to step on the pedal.
Another improvement (unless the Tesla owner I rode with today and I are imagining things) is that the Autopilot visualization shows dashed/broken lane markings as they are on the road, not as solid lines. You can see that a bit in the pictures above.
Additionally, double lane markings are now visible (see above), and lane markings that appear as left turn lanes open up are now shown more accurately.
Additionally, as you can see in the picture above with the speed at 53 mph, vehicles coming from the opposite direction are now visible quite far away.
I didn’t notice this, but the Model 3 owner said that the vehicle visualizations are no longer so wobbly while parked. (Tear.)
Lastly (I think), pickup trucks now look like pickup trucks (instead of vans or large trucks with closed trailers). I didn’t get a shot of any of these, but did see them.
What I’d love to see in a future update is Tesla vehicles (aside from your own) having a clear Tesla design/shape. Would that serve any useful purpose? No, I don’t think so, but it would be fun.
I may have missed some Autopilot updates arriving with this new Tesla software. Drop us a note in the comments if you’ve spotted something else. Also, if you didn’t yet see my article on other updates in the V10 Tesla software, here it is: “Tesla’s V10 Updates — Freakin’ Awesome Home Movie Theater, Autopilot & Navigation Improvements, Joe Mode … (1st Impressions!).” There are definitely some fun — or even transformative — new features in this software update.
Aside from “Tesla Theater,” the coolest new feature in V10 software has to be the Advanced Summon feature. I was able to watch it in action, but it didn’t seem appropriate or considerate to record the car using this feature while it’s still only available to Early Access Tesla owners. It’s wild, though, and I’ll be sure to create and share videos of my Model 3 using Enhanced Summon once it’s in wide release.
If you’d like to buy a Tesla and get 2,000 miles (3,000 km) of free Supercharging, feel free to use my referral code by October 1: https://ts.la/zachary63404. After October 1, it’s presumed that you will get 1,000 miles (1,500 km) of free Supercharging by using that referral code (or someone else’s).