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80 mph speed limits are common on I-15 near this Supercharger in Saint George, Utah. November 10, 2021. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

Autonomous Vehicles

Tesla “Full Self Driving” v10.5 & v10.8 — Part 2

A summary of my observations of the improvements made to Tesla Autosteer, Traffic-Aware Cruise Control (TACC), and “Full Self Driving” (FSD) going from v10.5 to v10.8.

Note: I continue to observe new behavior. Thus, this summary is not comprehensive.


Autosteer

I have been teaching alpine skiing at the Brighton Resort in Utah, which is 49 miles from my home near Orem, Utah. The trip includes 18 miles up a long winding Big Cottonwood Canyon Road. In my old two-wheel-drive Nissan Leaf, it was such a challenge that on snowy days I had to park at the bottom of the canyon and hitchhike up the canyon. With my dual-motor (4-wheel-drive) Tesla Model 3, I can make the trip in any weather. (I will discuss winter driving with FSD in another article.) With standard Autosteer/TACC, my Tesla would drive the canyon automatically except for two sets of hairpin turns marked 15 mph shown a short distance up the canyon in Figure 2. With FSD, my car will now automatically drive the whole canyon flawlessly.

Figure 2: Big Cottonwood Canyon to Brighton and Little Cottonwood Canyon to Alta — in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. Courtesy of USGS.

With FSD, our Tesla will now steer automatically on city streets and country roads with no lane markings! For those who live in rural areas, this alone might be reason enough to purchase FSD. You do not have to use automatic navigation to use this feature. You can use it just like the old Autosteer.

Phantom Braking

Even the TACC that comes with every Tesla has a problem with phantom braking. The most consistent problem was when a vehicle would cross your path and your car would brake even though it would be obvious to anyone that the vehicle would be well clear of your path by the time you reached the crossing vehicle’s path.

The crossing vehicle problem appears to be completely corrected by v10.8

However, both v10.5 and v10.8 appear to me to have many more unexplained random phantom braking events than the old TACC.

I surmise that this is because Tesla is trying to be much more proactive in versions 10.x about stopping for pedestrians, bikes, and fire trucks stopped in the road than in the old TACC. I surmise that versions 10.x can’t always tell the difference between a real object where braking is necessary and some slight variation in lighting, shadows on the pavement, etc. [Editor’s note: I assume it’s largely from switching to “vision only” — only using cameras and no longer using radar. However, it does seem to be improving gradually.]

Solution: Keep your foot lightly on the accelerator and be prepared to add throttle if phantom braking would cause danger from following vehicles.

Avoiding Vehicles Protruding into Your Lane as well as Pedestrians & Bike Riders in Your Lane

In the last few days with FSD v10.8, my car has moved neatly to the left on separate occasions to avoid a pedestrian and a bicycle rider. It will also move to the left to avoid vehicles protruding into my lane. Although, I hold my breath because it passes them quite closely. Unfortunately, there are situations with highway construction traffic cones where it can’t find the correct path. When the car gets too close to the cones, I abort. I’m not willing to take a chance on hitting the cones.

Hard Non-Regenerative Braking Improved

With v10.5 of FSD, as well as regular TACC, the car would approach a stoplight or stopped car at full speed — say, 50 mph — and then brake pretty hard just in time to make a safe stop. With v10.8, as explained in the User Notes, the car slows earlier and makes a smoother stop. It’s still a harder stop than standard regenerative braking, but I can’t tell whether the disc brakes are used or not.

Automatic Up & Down Speed Adjustment

With regular FSD, the car will actually read the speed limit signs and slow the car down when entering a lower speed limit in a built-up area. I got a $350 fine and a ticket for reckless speeding when I missed the slower speed limit in a small Wisconsin town a few years ago. This feature eliminates this possibility. However, when you leave the town, FSD will not automatically return to the higher speed limit out in the country. With FSD, the car will automatically adjust your speed up or down at all times.

80 mph Maximum Speed Limit with FSD Beta

It is quite common in the Western US to have speed limits of 80 mph or even higher. Let’s say you have your speed set to 80 mph in an 80 mph speed zone and you want to speed up to quickly pass a slower moving car. If you happen to exceed 80 mph, say to only 82 mph, you are in big trouble! To start, you will see a red graphic steering wheel flashing at you, but that’s not the worst part. You will have to pull off the freeway at the next exit, bring your car to a full stop and put it in park before you have access to FSD again.

Solution: turn off FSD by pushing the right steering wheel stalk up before you increase your speed.

Uncle Elon Looking over Your Shoulder

With v10.5, if you don’t anally keep your eyes on the road, even looking at the navigation screen to your right or down at your phone for more than ~10 seconds, you get a warning signal. Very occasionally it gives you the warning signal even if you are looking at the road. The Model 3 has a cabin camera by the mirror that is watching your face. According to Tesla that data does not leave the car. With version v10.8 uncle Elon seems to have mellowed a bit.

Timid Behavior at Stop Signs and Rotaries

With v10.5 of FSD, the car will stop dead when entering a rotary. It will also painfully slowly stop dead at a stop sign (in some cases 20 ft before the stop sign). In both cases, it will then inch forward slowly to peer out for oncoming or cross traffic. This behavior would not be acceptable to a driver not willing to patiently wait until the car proceeds. Also, if there is a car behind you, most drivers would be honking at you before your car finally gets moving. Ironically, the car will stop quickly behind a stopped car or at a stop light. I think this behavior is marginally better with v10.8.

Two solutions: 1) Turn off FSD and drive manually. 2) Slight pressure on the accelerator will get your car moving while continuing with FSD.

Unprotected (No Traffic Light) Left Turns

Making unprotected (no traffic light) left turns across a busy street is a serious problem. You will need the patience of Job and no car behind you to try this. Then when the car finally makes the turn, it may be too slow for late-arriving traffic. However, this is also a problem for all but the most experienced and quite aggressive human drivers.

Solution: Make left turns at stop lights onto busy streets whenever possible.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series.

 

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Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler, PhD, former leader of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization & Analysis Laboratory (creator of this iconic image), and avid CleanTechnica reader. Also: Research Meteorologist (Emeritus) at NASA GSFC, Adjunct Professor at Viterbo University On-Line Studies, PSIA L2 Certified Alpine Ski Instructor at Brighton Utah Ski School.

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