Tesla Model S Drives Itself 61 Miles With No Driver Intervention

1 year ago by Steven Loveday 37

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

Daniel Sparks, Motley Fool journalist, enjoyed the opportunity to take a Tesla Model S P90D out for a drive in Autopilot mode. He was “shocked” by the experience.

Autopilot Functionality n Model S

Autopilot Functionality n Model S

Not long ago, Car and Driver tested a Model S on Autopilot over a 50-mile course complete with rural, city, and freeway driving. It called the car the world’s best semi-autonomous vehicle.

Sparks focused his drive on the highway, since he believes that this is the intention of Autopilot mode and also how most people will choose to engage it. He made it 61 miles without intervening at all! All he did was adjust the cruise control and occasionally tap the steering wheel.

Sparks explains:

“In a 61-mile drive, which passed through several cities, including the 27-mile-long stretch of Colorado Springs, I didn’t have to steer or use the pedals a single time. I even changed lanes when I normally would have — though by a tap of the blinker each time instead of by turning the wheel. Other cars on the road would have never guessed it wasn’t a human driving. Model S slowed when slower vehicles cut in front of me, sped up when they moved, and accelerated with eerily human-like driving skills amid lane changes when passing vehicles. And it avoided off-ramps when I was in the right lane — even when there were no markings to separate my lane from the off-ramp.”

His trip took him from Monument, Colorado toward Colorado City. The route was two and three lane highway with some construction. Near Pueblo, he experienced his first interruption and was forced to grab the wheel as a semi-truck “encroached” his lane. Had this not happened, Sparks says he could have easily made it the full 87 miles to Colorado City. He also estimates that in most situations, a person could successfully stay in Autopilot mode on the highway with little or no interaction until having to exit to charge.

The previously noted, Car and Driver, test had 29 interruptions, but again, it wasn’t highway driving. Sparks’ drive proves that the Autopilot mode functions as intended when used “from highway on-ramp to highway off-ramp.”

Sparks said:

“After letting a Tesla drive me for 61 miles, I’m convinced autonomous production cars may come sooner than we think.”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently stated that within two to three years, the company will be able to create vehicles that can be “summoned” across the country without a driver. The car would even be able to stop and charge itself!

Source: The Motley Fool

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37 responses to "Tesla Model S Drives Itself 61 Miles With No Driver Intervention"

  1. Three Electrics says:

    Google has no doubt driven their cars autonomously far longer than this. Of course, they haven’t shipped.

    1. TomArt says:

      Most likely, and exactly!

      I sincerely doubt that Google will build a car. I assume that they will perfect the technology, making it universal, and then licensing the tech to any automaker that wants it.

  2. AlanSqB says:

    I-25 in Colorado is my personal hell. Can’t wait for my autopilot enabled Model S to reduce my daily stress level out there. Every time I make the drive now it makes me so frustrated my current car doesn’t have anything like this. Regular cruise control is worse than useless on that road so even TACC would be a welcome option.

  3. MDEV says:

    Google is still a prototype, Tesla is already a reality.

  4. PJ says:

    I live in Monument and drive to Colorado Springs good to know that when the model 3 comes out I can just relax. I do wonder about the semi-truck situation, how fast the car can react

    1. scottf200 says:

      You are supposed to have your hands on the wheel and be in control/responsible at all times so it is up to you to react to this. It is to ‘assist’ not be ‘autonomous’. I used it for the first time yesterday. Just a relaxing way to drive while still being in control.

      1. TomArt says:

        Why would you keep your hands on the steering wheel while running autopilot? That defeats the purpose! If you want to drive, then drive, and let the sensors warn you about your surroundings. If you want to run autopilot, then run autopilot, sit back, and just keep your eyes on the road and your foot near the brake.

    2. Goaterguy says:

      As computers have done for years, it will likely react faster than most human beings.

      1. Aaron says:

        We humans have no idea how fast computers really are. To put things in perspective, the CPUs “clock” cycle (the signal that synchronizes things inside the computer) of an average cheap desktop computer occurs in the time that light travels about 18 inches.

        1. Pat says:

          Don’t sell yourself so short… Computers are really good at math, but ask a computer to identify the most dramatic painting, plan a meal, or design a building that visually appealing and cost effective and you’ll end up short. There are no fully autonomous vehicles (yet) because driving is such a complex problem for computers, yet rather simple for humans.

    3. Daniel says:

      Well, I would not count on Model 3 to have all of the Model S features (such as auto pilot) at least NOT at a 35k price point. Seems many are hoping for a 100k + Model S packaged as a Model 3 for less than 35k

  5. Breezy says:

    It didn’t drive itself. The human driver has to supervise and be able to assume control at any moment.

    I wish people would be careful about suggesting that Autopilot is “driving” the car. It’s advanced driver assistance; not autonomy.

    1. Texas FFE says:

      My Fusion Energi has lane keeping assist. It will hug a line and go down the road but the car gets upset with you if you activate it very often. Having a car that pretty much follows the road and didn’t criticize my driving while it did would be nice.

  6. Bloggin says:

    “Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently stated that within two to three years, the company will be able to create vehicles that can be “summoned” across the country without a driver. The car would even be able to stop and charge itself!”

    ….so a customer can buy a Tesla online from a different state, and the car will drive itself to the new owner and deliver itself.

    …or better yet, my car can come pick me up from the airport a at whatever time I arrive, and drive me back home.

    This will also take car sharing to another level. The community could have a shared car, and residents just book it online for pick up or their delivery to a destination, with the option of scheduling a ’round trip’. Residence pay for usage.

    1. theflew says:

      Elon says a lot of things. But I bet in 2-3 years you will not be able to summon a car from down the street let a lone across the country.

      1. V2 says:

        Just happy to be living in a time that, even if considered by you as not-so-soon-to-come, these things are not just science fiction anymore

      2. Remember – current cars are using Autopilot Hardware Version 1.0, they are working on the hardware suite for Version 2.0 now! Elon Also said – as good as the Model S is now (and model X), they will be building better ones, which will make the current ones Old – tech wise for sure, within 24 months!

        What was the time frame from the first Model S Deliveries, until the first cars with Dual Motors? From then until Autopilot was operational on customer cars? Those time frames should give you a clue as to the time frame for the next step up!

    2. Someone out there says:

      The most interesting question with fully autonomous cars is: why own a car at all? If you can summon a car anytime you need it it doesn’t have to be _your_ car. If you join some car sharing organization you wouldn’t have to own a car, just summon a car whenever you need one.

      Also, that would allow you to summon different types of cars depending on your needs. Going to work? Summon a small inner-city car. Need to transport a piece of furniture from IKEA? Fine, summon a van instead.

      With fully autonomous cars, car ownership will drastically go down. With some smart planning, the collective number of driving miles will also be reduced. The road capacity needs will be reduced. The need for parking spots in the city will be drastically reduced. “Taxi driver” will no longer be a profession. Buses will probably see limited use too, at least city buses. Fully autonomous cars will have a huge impact in society!

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        “Going to work? Summon a small inner-city car.”

        I think that’s unrealistically optimistic, for those who have to be at work at a certain time every workday. It’s not like the taxi service is gonna reserve a car for your personal use every day, is it? Anyone who depends on this sort of thing to get to work on a daily basis had better have a very understanding boss who doesn’t mind you coming in at whatever time you want to show up.

        The reason people own cars is because that’s the only way to be certain that there will be a car available for their use whenever they need it. Autonomous cars won’t change that.

        1. Someone out there says:

          Even if you have your own car traffic will make any schedule unreliable anyway.

          Sure there will be times where it’s harder to get a car but people will adapt to that and some will decide to go to work a little earlier to beat the rush, just as they do already today.

        2. John in AA says:

          Fully autonomous cars will make models other than conventional car ownership possible, although I think you’re right they won’t look like current taxi services. In fact we don’t know what they’ll look like yet, because they haven’t been enabled yet. There is some happy medium to be found, maybe a form of fractional ownership with a fleet that’s sized for peak load. It’s not hard to think of knobs you could twist – for example, your membership could guarantee you a car waiting in your driveway for the beginning of your commute, my membership might not offer me a solid guarantee but might cost less. We already see the beginnings of this with Uber’s pricing model, for example.

          I seem to recall seeing an article talking about Ford foreseeing the future of this sort, where individual ownership of cars is mostly a thing of the past but automakers are still viable.

      2. Jim Whitehead says:

        Why own a car at all? Duh, because when you need a shared car most, all will be taken. They will be empty when you need them least. Some people will hog the cars at the worst times, like shopping during rush hours.

        Also, who will clean up these driver-less cabs? What if a kid wrecks the interior? Nobody wants to get into a dirty shared car, when the last passengers left it with trash and cigarettes, smelling of wet dog and diapers. People will have to be paid to clean up these cars at least once a shift.

        1. Someone out there says:

          All that is just teething issues that will be resolved once the system is up and running. Capacity will be added as needed as car sharing services grow and cleanup costs is of course part of the monthly fee.

          1. John in AA says:

            Absolutely. In the end it’s all about being able to deliver a good experience for a whole lot cheaper than the very high cost of individual ownership of a car that spends 95% of its time parked. It’s a huge business opportunity for whoever cracks the code. Uber certainly seems to be investing in it significantly.

  7. Texas FFE says:

    61 miles doesn’t seem like very far. I25 has a lot twisties in Colorado Springs and Pueblo. If he had gone east on I70 across the East Colorado prairie towards Kansas City I think we could gone much farther.

  8. Texas FFE says:

    Since we are talking about Colorado I would like to put in a plug for a pet idea of mine. We have the East Coast Electric Highway and the West Coast Electric Highway programs, I think we need a Texas to Colorado Electric Highway program. The DFW area and the Colorado Front Range areas are both Mecca areas for electric vehicles but traveling between Texas and Colorado by electric vehicle is very difficult unless you have a Tesla. Hundreds of thousands of people drive between Texas and Colorado every year and thousands of those people have electric vehicles. There needs to be a dedicated program promoting the development of the electric vehicle charging infrastructure between Texas and Colorado.

  9. John says:

    I can’t wait for the day when I can send my Tesla to pick up my pizza. For whatever reason, the delivery man can never find my house…

  10. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    “…it avoided off-ramps when I was in the right lane — even when there were no markings to separate my lane from the off-ramp.”

    Looks like Autosteer has already been upgraded somewhat since the initial Beta release. Does Tesla still label this “Beta” on the display?

  11. The Woodster says:

    Comparing what Tesla is doing with the Model S to what Google is doing with their full autonomous vehicles is ridiculous. They are NOT the same technology.

    Tesla has developed a very nice driver assist system, that works great on the freeway where the limited cameras can see the lines in the road. It works particularly well at night, too, since the lane markings are often even more high contrast than during the day. Don’t get me wrong, I vastly prefer the driver assist of my Model S to our other car (a Subaru with iSight).

    But there is a huge difference. Google’s system is trying to replicate (and improve upon) human perception, understanding the differences between a pedestrian, a cyclist, a motorcycle, a small car, a big car, and a truck. It has a huge, 360 degree camera on the roof of the car, and it is successfully replicating “seeing” the world around it and responding accordingly. The unavailable-to-buy Google car could go get the pizza or drive my children to school without a driver. The Model S can steer the car in certain situations and open my garage door when I approach the house. But it is NOT autonomous. Not even close.

    I’m a Tesla fanboy, but c’mon people. The Model S is not close to autonomous.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Well said. Google’s more advanced cars don’t even have a steering wheel. Tesla’s labeling its driver assist features “Autopilot” is at best something they hope it will develop into, at worst just hype.

      Tesla’s achievement here is the willingness to put cars capable of steering themselves in limited conditions into the hands of ordinary drivers. Let’s give Tesla credit where it’s due; they’ve taken the lead in this.

      But let’s not pretend their self-driving hardware and software are anywhere near as advanced as Google’s systems are, because they aren’t.

      1. TomArt says:

        That’s why Musk insists on the term “autopilot”, not “autonomous”.

    2. Breezy says:

      You got it. It’s advanced driver assistance, not autonomy. So people should not be reading, checking emails, etc. while the car follows lane markings and/or the car in front. There are too many situations that Autopilot is not equipped to deal with at this point in development.

  12. Loboc says:

    If I gotta summon a car when I need one how will it know to get my sunglasses, phone charger, kleenex, knife, insurance form, and all the other stuff that is now conveniently stored in my car? This no-ownership paradigm doesn’t work for me.

    1. John in AA says:

      If the best value proposition individual ownership can come up with is “car as a $X0,000 rolling purse” that’s not saying a whole lot.

      Suppose I offered you, say, $4,000 a year to take your stuff with you when you get out of the car. Maybe you wouldn’t take the deal, but I bet a lot of people would. But just like there is a market for $2000 Prada purses when there are perfectly good $20 backpacks to be had, I’m sure there will be some people who choose to own a car for similar reasons.

  13. Mike says:

    Autopilot was billed as being just like an aircraft autopilot – hence the name. That makes it pretty obvious what its supposed to do and what it can’t do, but people insist on calling it autonomy which ridiculous.
    Aircraft AP can’t take off or land etc it’s there to be enabled as a hands off cruise control. In a lot of ways Tesla AP is much better than that, but it still isn’t autonomy and wasn’t designed as one.

    1. TomArt says:

      That is very true, except that there are certain airports with the necessary hardware installed where planes are capable of landing and taking off without pilot intervention.

  14. carcus says:

    Electric cars plus autonomous driving is a “one-two technology punch” that has massive potential to impact the way we live and do business. I think those “ingrained in old school” are just starting to realize:

    “Allstate admits driverless cars could gut the company”
    http://www.ibamag.com/news/allstate-admits-driverless-cars-could-gut-the-company-28723.aspx