I just got Tesla’s newest Autopilot update, which means that my Model 3, “Moonhopper,” will stop itself at lights and stop signs when Autopilot is on. This is possibly the coolest update I’ve gotten in my 8 months with the car. (Though, getting Netflix, YouTube, Navigate on Autopilot, and Smart Summon were pretty wicked improvements.)
There were some things that surprised me about this new “Autostopping” feature, and there were aspects that were not surprising but seemed worth highlighting. Below are my top 7 notes from my first day (first drive) with the updated Autopilot capabilities. (Autostopping is what I’m calling it. This is not an official Tesla term.)
1. The Autostopping feature currently stops for all traffic lights and stop signs — including green lights.
I thought this update was going to result in Moonhopper only automatically stopping at red lights and stop signs. That would have been more useful, but at this point, it’s all basically just fun/entertainment anyway. Also, I imagine this makes a lot of sense as a starting point since Tesla needs to make sure the cars are recognizing lights in the way they should be. If people override the braking 100% of the time Tesla cars think they see green lights but start stopping (as you would want them to do), Tesla can say, “Okay, this is working. Let’s take the next step and let the cars drive through green lights on their own.” Also, it’s smooth and easy to make the car keep driving — you just lightly step on the pedal or push the gear selector toward “D” again.
2. As the system learns, it will get less conservative and drive more naturally.
Well, that’s what we expect of the system, but it’s still extra cool to see your car telling you it’s going to learn. It’s also fun reflecting on the fact that it’s really a giant fleet game. It’s not just about you and your car but about all Tesla drivers/cars.
3. Instead of letting you drive 5 miles over the speed limit, with this feature implemented, Autopilot will not drive above the speed limit at all.
This is somewhat annoying. It’s unusual to be on a road where the flow of traffic is going the speed limit. The flow of traffic is routinely 5–15 mph over the speed limit in my area. If you want to go with the flow of traffic here, you have to keep your foot on the pedal, and then when a stop is coming up, you can just take your foot off the pedal and let the car do the rest. Okay, that’s not too hard, but that’s also basically driving. 😛
Of course, you can just let the car drive the speed limit — and that is better for your efficiency! (Looks like my Wh/mile will finally improve a bit.)
4. You leave a stop light or stop sign like a grandma.
After the car has been stopped at a light or stop sign and it’s time to drive again, you can accelerate by putting your foot on the acceleration pedal like usual or you can just tap the gear stalk toward “D” again. I did the latter once and I found it humorously slow. I typically like to dart off the line a bit and leave space between myself and other cars — makes it easier to change lanes if needed, keeps me away from potentially distracted/drifting neighbors, and it’s just fun. Driving by itself, Moonhopper left me right in between two slow-ass gasoline cars. I felt like I was being driven by a seriously cautious grandma. Never again.
5. The big red line stands out.
The entire visualization side of Autopilot is fascinating to me, and I think Tesla implements it to an insanely good and under-appreciated degree. It’s both a work of art and a superb balance between including what the driver needs to see while not making the screen too busy and distracting. With this new feature, Tesla puts a really thick red line at the point the car is stopping. I think this helps bring attention to the fact that the car is about to stop, and it is quite important that drivers notice the car is stopping — via visual cues as well as the natural physical feeling you get when the car starts slowing down.
6. Notifications will kick in before you can even see a traffic light.
This is probably obvious, but it is cool to note that the car can beat a human when it comes to anticipating what’s ahead. I knew the road I was driving on in this example, but if I didn’t, I could have found out from the car that there was a light approaching, a nice warning of sorts.
Also, you may have noticed that the lights on the visualization typically show you what color the light is — green, yellow, or red. Apparently, because the car also couldn’t yet see the lights ahead, it showed them all as dark/black.
7. Stopping in 600, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, 75, 50, 25, 0 … stopped!
The car updates you about a coming stop very thoroughly as it approaches the light or stop sign. It tells you when it’s 600 ft from stopping, 500 ft, 400 ft., etc. You can click the images below for a closer look.
Any other thoughts on this early stage of Tesla Autostopping? Anyone want to take a wild guess about when Moonhopper will go through a green light on its own (just warning me on screen that it’s doing so)? Any guesses on when Moonhopper will take its first solo right turn?
Check out more Tesla Model 3 long-term review articles here for more insight on the intricacies of living with a Model 3.
Side note: My touchscreen doesn’t look super dusty in real life. The pictures make the dust on the screen really pop out. I swear.
Want to buy a Tesla Model 3, Model S, or Model X? Feel free to use my referral code to get some free Supercharging miles with your purchase: https://ts.la/zachary63404. You can also get a $250 discount on Tesla solar with that code. The code doesn’t yet do anything for someone buying a Model Y or reserving a Cybertruck, afaik.