Scientific American Puts Tesla Model 3 Enhanced Autopilot To The Test

OCT 27 2018 BY EVANNEX 14


Self-driving cars have the potential to bring about profound changes to our society, and Tesla is at the forefront of the transition. “Driver assistance” features are steadily creeping into new vehicles, but there’s still a long way to go before full self-driving capability (Level 5 autonomy, as defined by SAE) is ready for the road.

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Charles Morris. The opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs.

Above: Activating Tesla’s Autopilot (Image: Teslarati)

The technical challenge isn’t the only obstacle: in a recent AAA survey, 73 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t want to ride in a self-driving car. Of course, consumer acceptance of autonomy is sure to grow as more people experience it for themselves, and read the reports of others who’ve tested Teslas and other vehicles with autonomous capabilities.

One of those spreading the word is David Pogue, who shared his Autopilot adventures in a recent article in Scientific American. Mr. Pogue recently took delivery of a Model 3, which is currently the most autonomous-capable car on the road (with the possible exception of the Cadillac CT6). He put Model 3’s Enhanced Autopilot through its paces, and seems pretty impressed overall, although he notes that “it’s had some near misses and required some adjustments.”

Above: David Pogue, seen front and center, also evaluates cars for Yahoo Autos (Twitter: David Pogue)

Several higher-end automobiles (including the Clarity PHEV Touring that I recently tested) now offer something approaching Level 2 autonomy. They can sort of drive themselves on the highway, automatically staying in their lane and adjusting their speed to traffic. Personally, I’ve found these systems in the cars I’ve driven (several models from Honda, Toyota and Lexus) to be inconsistent and unpredictable – Tesla’s Autopilot, while not perfect, is far superior. Pogue would seem to agree – he describes the capabilities of Model 3, which has 8 video cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors and a front radar, as “about Level 2.3.”

“If you put on your turn signal, the Tesla watches for an opportunity, accelerates if necessary and then smoothly changes lanes, all by itself,” Pogue writes. “If you’re exiting, it eases onto the ramp and slows down. (Ingeniously, it knows how much to slow down based on the behavior of Tesla owners who have taken that ramp before you.) Enhanced Autopilot also knows to slow down on a curve, can recognize pedestrians and bicycles, and can slam on the brakes to avoid a collision.”

Above: A look at Tesla’s “Enhanced Autopilot” capabilities (Youtube: Tesla)

“The manual teems with warnings,” Pogue notes, “especially this one: you still have to pay attention. In my Tesla, if it notices your hands have been off the wheel for too long (three minutes in most situations), the screen shows increasingly frantic warnings. If you ignore them, Autopilot shuts off for the rest of your trip, punishing you for your carelessness. If there’s still no response from you, Autopilot activates the hazard blinkers and slowly stops. If you’ve fallen asleep or taken ill, that’s a much better outcome than crashing.”

Pogue says Autopilot has saved him from a couple of near misses, but also given him a couple of scares. “Its self-driving maneuvers are generally graceful, but I’ve experienced a few bafflingly jolty ones. On balance, though, I’m convinced that Autopilot makes me safer. It takes care of fussy, mechanical operations, leaving you to focus on larger-level issues, like what’s around you or what your next turn should be. By off-loading the second-by-second, fight-or-flight decisions, you’re free to destress a little, making driving less fatiguing and more pleasant.”


Written by: Charles Morris; Source: Scientific American; Editor’s Note: Enhanced Autopilot just received another exciting update — the much-anticipated, new Navigate on Autopilot feature is currently rolling out to Tesla owners.

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14 Comments on "Scientific American Puts Tesla Model 3 Enhanced Autopilot To The Test"

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Also, to say Cadillac ct6 is autonomous or comparable to Teslas autopilot , is like to say that a train is autonomous!

That’s a bit disingenuous. It’s available on just about every major freeway in the US. And it can handle the dangerous situations autopilot has seriously failed at.

What about airplanes, did they failed ? Only because you heard about 2 accidents you make to conclusions, how many lives Tesla Autopilot has save. I don’t know the number but way more than accidents. Learning from failure is what will make autonomous driving a reality.

Yeah, tell that to the families of those who died driving beta! Beyond that is the figures Musk uses tend to be global not local, skewing the playing field. Besides, why dId tesla pull the current Autopilot? 1) Because of liability, and 2) because the current setup does not have a clear path to success with current equipment. There will be lawsuits. Imagine paying $8k for something promised and no acceptance by any agency for public driving. And, if it kills you the driver is always at fault. And no clear end in sight.

Tesla’s always thrown out beta software and then touts OTA updates as an advantage. Most every other car company tries to perfect a system before releasing it to the public. Tesla asks tor the public to buy them to finance the R&D required to make things work right. Microsoft pioneered this concept.

“Yeah, tell that to the families of those who died driving beta!”

Do you have a point, or are you just spitting out anti-Tesla propaganda?

Perhaps 200 people have been seriously injured or killed by exploding air bags. If we “tell that to the families” of those who were maimed or killed, what’s the point? Just to make them feel worse?

The question should be whether you’re safer with the system on or with it off. Just as with air bags, I think the statistics quite clearly show that you’re safer using Tesla Autopilot+AutoSteer than not using it, so long as it’s under appropriate conditions, which means on divided highways, and not in construction zones or detours.

“…why dId tesla pull the current Autopilot?”

It didn’t. You’re either very ignorant or, more likely, you’re posting what you know is B.S.

Most every other car company tries to perfect a system before releasing it to the public. The Ford Pinto (exploding gas tank when rear ended) they knew about it but still sold the car cause it was too expensive to correct the problem. Chevy pickups (saddlebag gas tanks) same problem when hit on either side of truck and many more. They still sold this cars and didn’t give a S*** about those lives. I’ve been around so don’t come to me with that BS. You should research the histories of these car companies. Horror stories galore.

A Pinto gas tank doesn’t save lives when not being rear ended.

AutoPilot does reduce accidents, by design and in practice, even if the remaining accidents that happen when it fails look stupid.

Don’t make irrelevant comparisons. The heart of the debate is whether we should release a technology that, for example, saves 100 lives but kills 50 different ones.

Preventative cancer screening is a more apt comparison, because everyone who doesn’t have cancer gets exposed to a small dose of x-rays that has a low probability of causing cancer.

Your argument is inane. A human was actually hit by a meteorite. Should we outlaw meteorites?

Supercruize can “handle” dangerous situations, by entirely punting to the driver in advance when anything non-trivial is coming up according to its map. Yes, it’s less likely to be involved in accidents — but only because it’s much more conservative in when it’s allowed to be used at all, not because it actually has any sort of technical edge.

Government Motors cars are a hit and miss, ignition switches, fuel tanks igniting under truck cabs, bankrupting SAAB. But Government Motors always fall back on their feet because the prostitutes on the Hill are in their pockets, in fact you could say they are a little bit like a politician money launderer, big subsidies help big donations. And the dog and pony show goes on.

Yeah, all the Tesla haters and bears do is whine, whine whine. (See Huggus above). Do they realize these “armchair experts” only fool the newbies who never test drove a Tesla? That is fine. You can keep refueling your chugging General Motors Pile of… repairs forever, until you can’t find the parts anymore. Meanwhile, I will zoom right by you in my EV.

I find it appalling how ignorant and full of yourself you are

At least we are trying to save the world from people like you.

Nice to see the assisted driving technology continuing to proliferate in the wild, in spite of the existing isolated cases of misuse that seem to be big headline grabbers.

However, I have to say I’m still concerned that the more advanced the Autopilot / ADAS technology becomes, without actually achieving Level 4 or 5 autonomy, the higher the risk is that a driver will stop paying attention. It’s pretty easy to have both hands on the wheel, but still be mentally checked out, happens to all sorts of drivers even without Autopilot.

The biggest problem is the lack of public understanding that people will still die while using this technology (or without it), but they will falsely attribute causality to the Autopilot / ADAS rather than the driver who is still responsible to be ready to take over at all time. Level 4 autonomy can’t come soon enough, even if it only reduced roadway fatalities by 50% a year, it would still represent over 600,000 lives saved per year.