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Autonomous Vehicles

Published on October 28th, 2019 | by Maarten Vinkhuyzen


Tesla Full Self Driving — When in Rome …

October 28th, 2019 by  

Tesla Full Self Driving (FSD) might be feature complete by the end of this year. That means a Tesla will be able to drive itself in normal traffic from one location to another, using highways when needed, but in a rudimentary way. As a human driver with a learner’s permit, who is allowed to drive but only with an experienced driver beside him or her who can intervene when needed, these Tesla vehicles have to be monitored by a normal human driver.

This will last a year, or perhaps two years, before that experienced driver can take a nap or send the car on an errand without any occupant. That is the time needed to get a few billion miles of experience and learn how to tag edge cases — like, don’t drive through a red traffic light … unless there is an emergency responder coming and you have to clear the road.

But Tesla will only be allowed to drive in the USA, or a certain state or two in the USA, because it is mostly trained to follow US regulations and habits. What is legal and a correct way to drive in the USA can cost you your driver’s license in Europe, like overtaking on the right.

A tourist can learn the most important rules from an A4 sheet with a few highlights, and that person can be just a nuisance but not a danger on the road. Altering the behavior of AI is a bit more complex. It has to be trained for different reactions in seemingly identical situations based on its GPS location. To create these training sets, Tesla will need tag teams to annotate the example according to the local rules. And those pesky EU countries have 27 different sets of local rules. And the world is bigger than the USA plus the EU.

For a Tesla Full Self Driving vehicle to drive safely in Rome, it has to know how to drive in Rome, by the Italian rules and the Roman habits. And only Roman natives can annotate a training set to teach the AI how to do that.

For countries that drive on the other side of the road, there are about a thousand subtle differences in driving behavior.

We might complain that Tesla FSD will not be released in our country the same moment it is released for the USA. But it is actually a smart move by our regulators. First learn how to drive over here, then get a driver’s license before you get out on the streets.

We’ll see, said the driving examiner.


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About the Author

Grumpy old man. The best thing I did with my life was raising two kids. Only finished primary education, but when you don’t go to school, you have lots of time to read. I switched from accounting to software development and ended my career as system integrator and architect. My 2007 boss got two electric Lotus Elise cars to show policymakers the future direction of energy and transportation. And I have been looking to replace my diesel cars with electric vehicles ever since. And putting my money where my mouth is, I have bought Tesla shares. Intend to keep them until I can trade them for a Tesla car.

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