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Happy With My Tesla Model 3, And Now I’m Thankful Too!

I pass gas stations with prices over $4/gal with no worries, mate!

It’s been a blast driving my Tesla Model 3 now for nearly 2 years, 5 months, and 63,119 miles. When I purchased my car, I went all in and bought the “Long Range” dual-motor option for an extra $9,000 and the Full Self Driving (FSD) option for an extra $6000. Yesterday morning, I said “Navigate to Brighton” and let my car drive me the 50 miles from my home in Lindon, Utah, to the Brighton Ski Resort. I turned north onto 12-lane I-15 for 26 miles to South Salt Lake City, then east onto I-215 for 9 miles, and finally up the very curvy 15-mile Big Cottonwood Canyon to my job teaching alpine skiing at the Brighton ski resort.

I have had access to FSD (Beta) now for 14 weeks, because I paid for it and also passed the Tesla safety test to get early access. I had to put a little torque on the steering wheel every ~20 seconds and keep my eyes on the road, but I never steered my car, never touched the brakes, and never touched the accelerator. The car automatically got into the turn lanes, made all the turns, stopped at the stop lights, automatically passed slower cars on I-15 and drove up the 15 miles of Big Cottonwood Canyon mountain road clear of snow flawlessly.

By the time I left Brighton for home at noon, there was 6” of snow on my car (see Figure 2 for an example of an earlier 8” snow morning). With the all-wheel drive from the dual motors, I had no trouble driving out of the parking lot. For the first 5 miles down the canyon, there was enough snow on the road that I drove manually, but then the FSD took me all the way home with only one significant intervention.

Figure 2: My Tesla Model 3 in 8” of new snow in the morning. Brighton Ski Resort in Utah. December 26, 2021. Photo by Fritz Hasler/CleanTechnica.

Since I bought my car, the price for the base model has gone up $2,000 and the price for FSD has doubled to $12,000. I’m now passing gas stations advertising regular gas at $4.29/gallon. Heaven help us if it goes even higher. I am very thankful that I bought my car when I did! The US has some of the lowest price gas and smallest taxes on gas in the world and yet we are paying over $4/gallon in Utah (see Figure 3) and the price in California is approaching $6/gallon (Figure 4).

Figure 3: Gas prices over $4/gallon in Orem, Utah. March 14, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

Figure 4: Gas prices in California. October 20, 2012. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

I had refueled (charged) my car overnight in my garage, so I passed those gas stations with gas at over $4/gallon with barely a thought. I’m thankful that I paid an extra $9000 to buy the long-range, 310-mile, dual-motor version of the Model 3, because I can easily make the round trip to Brighton from my home on snowy roads with the heater on in winter with zero range anxiety. I can also make cross-country trips with a tray-type bike carrier and two big e-bikes on back. The additional aerodynamic drag kills my range, but I can still make it from one Supercharger to the next.

You can join the Tesla club too. The additional fee for the long-range model has been reduced to $7000, so you won’t have to pay more than I did, but you will have to wait maybe 7 months to take delivery on a Model 3 or Model Y unless you pay the extra $12,000 for FSD, which will cut your delivery time in half.

Full Self Driving (Beta) Updates

First: I am thrilled to be one of very few people worldwide to be using totally automatic driving software, even if it is still in beta and doesn’t handle every situation. Second: The great thing about FSD is that it keeps getting better, I’m using the 6th version that has been released to regular customers like myself. I originally got V10.5, then V10.8, V10.10, and just now V10.11. I have written several articles on the subject.

Improvements I have seen in V10.8 and V10.10

1) It no longer brakes for vehicles crossing your path that will be gone before you reach them. 2) It stops more slowly and smoothly, hopefully using only regenerative braking for stop lights, stop signs, etc. 3) Going north on I-15, FSD used to miss the exit to I-215 E because of a new extended separated turn lane. It now exits I-15 at the proper point and automatically makes the turn onto I-215. 4) Going east on 7200 S in Salt Lake City, FSD now finds the proper right turn lane and makes the sharp turn onto the onramp for I-15 South.

Note: Improvements #3 and #4 must be due to updates in the map that FSD uses.

Improvements I have seen in V10.11

I just downloaded V10.11, today so I’m not able to do an exhaustive review. However: 1) One of the most serious problems with previous versions was the very timid behavior at one-way and two-way stop signs. FSD would make a slow but normal stop and then creep forward interminably before committing to going forward or turning. FSD v10.11 is a huge improvement — it appears to have sped up the behavior at stop signs significantly.

Note: Ironically, FSD has always been much better at 4-way stop signs and is excellent at traffic control lights. This is most likely due to the fact that FSD doesn’t have to look for high-speed cross traffic in those cases.

Remaining Problems

There are two locations where I have seen FSD repeatedly pick the right turn lane instead of the center lane and make the right turn instead of going straight as dictated by the navigation. Sometimes it will make a quick move to the center lane at the very last instant.

There is one particular stop sign in St George, Utah, that FSD just ignores and charges onto a busy street. (I haven’t been able to test this with V10.11.)

FSD stops at the entry of roundabouts (rotaries) even when no cars are present. This is still a problem with V10.11.

You are not likely to be able to use FSD in very congested areas with high-speed cross traffic for unprotected turns (no traffic control lights). But this is difficult for all but the most experienced and aggressive human drivers.

Phantom braking: Even with FSD V10.11, there are times when the car will slow markedly for no good reason. My solution is to rest my right foot lightly on the accelerator and keep an eye on the rearview mirror. I compensate when the car brakes for no reason.

You Will Lose FSD Beta with 5 Forced Disengagements

You will lose your FSD Beta privileges if you have five forced disengagements. This includes not paying attention to the road for a period of time, not putting torque on the steering wheel, and exceeding 80 mph with FSD engaged. For this reason, I have been very careful not to let any of this happen.

In spite of this, a few days ago I got a notice that I had used one of my 5 forced disengagements and I don’t have a clue what I did to warrant this.

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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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