Imagining the future: FSD in snow

Imagining the future: FSD in snow

We were driving across Nevada a week ago when it began snowing moderately east of Winnemucca. I had TACC on, but I had dropped Autosteer since lane line visibility was getting sketchy. All was performing flawlessly when I suddenly got a message (from memory, so not word-for-word) saying, "Autopilot features disabled. Radar visibility lost." My first thought was that I had to get the car fixed. My second thought was wondering whether ice was accumulating from the car ramming its way through snowfall. Sure enough, when we got to our next Supercharger in Elko, there was a centimeter of ice on the front bumper. I knocked it off gently, and full EAP features magically returned for the rest of our trip. And, yes, the manual says TACC may cancel when "The view from the radar sensor or
camera(s) is obstructed. This could be caused by dirt, mud, ice, snow, fog, etc." This was the first experience of this for this Sacramento boy, though I bet those of you who live in snowy places have seen this many times.

So now let's step into the time machine. It's some years from now, and Full Self-Driving is an actual thing, with whatever hardware and software upgrades, regulatory approval, and whatever else is needed. (This is a fantasy, so go with it. I'm not trying to start a debate about whether or when we'll ever see FSD.) We have FSD engaged. It's Level 5, so no more steering wheel nags. In fact, as we engaged FSD, the screen displayed a pleasant message: "I got this. Enjoy your nap." And as it's driving along while we snooze, it loses its radar, just like happened to us last Friday. Then what? Loud noises to wake up the driver? Last week I was fully engaged when EAP shut down, so it was no panic, no problem. But if the driver is inattentive when FSD can't do it anymore, then what? SAE Level 5 says, "The vehicle is capable of performing all driving functions under all conditions." Level 4 says, "...under certain conditions." Is it Level 5 that's the fantasy? Is 4 the best we can ever really hope for, if the car's sensory input is subject to impairment by weather, which would clearly fall within "under all conditions"?

Just thinkin'.

PS: We just bought the $2K FSD upgrade...

wiboater4 | March 16, 2019

Maybe they'll make it so the car slows down and pulls over by itself when that starts to happen before it fully loses it's sensors / camera's etc. One other thing is in one of Elon Musks TV interviews he said FSD will never be 100% .

gballant4570 | March 16, 2019

No matter how FSD evolves, a weather or other kind of scenario can be imagined that would render the system either less operable or inoperable. The system will then need to have a safe exit strategy as a result.

Wormtown Kris | March 16, 2019

Even with low Level 2 EAP, when you repeatedly fail to follow prompts to put your hands on the wheel, the car will reduce speed and pull over. It does not drive you into a cliff face. Certainly a Level 5 car which loses it's ability to process level 5 commands, (iced-over sensors and cameras would be comparable to a software error), will have a safe "exiting Level 5" process, probably including audible driver alerts and pulling safely off the roadway.

thedrisin | March 16, 2019

I believe if you don't respond to the Autosteer nudge, the car slows down and comes to a complete stop where it is. Would be nice if it actually pulled over. In fact, that should be a FSD function as soon as possible.

kaffine | March 16, 2019

Right now the car doesn't have the processing power to rely on video alone. With better processor it may be able to rely on the cameras alone without the radar in cases such as this. If it is so bad that visual data is not enough then a human shouldn't be driving in those conditions either. | March 16, 2019

@CharleyBC - I think the latest radar Tesla uses has a heater that may melt limited amount of snow/ice (but not 100% sure of this). The cameras all have heaters. Now I'd expect some conditions to be so severe that the heaters may not keep up (or if parked and ice and snow build up over the bumper).

johnmann | March 16, 2019

Maybe they can follow the lead of aircraft manufacturers and use bleed air or pneumatic boots to de-ice the sensors :)

hcdavis3 | March 16, 2019

Can’t see the lane lines can’t do Auto steer as far as I know.

dalesmith1962 | March 16, 2019

In the future, roadways will be lined with transmitters that onboard sensors can detect. Lane lines will therefore be detectable even if vision and radar are lost.

In addition, cars will communicate directly with each other passing pertinent info on upcoming road hazards, etc. as they pass each other.