How good is the autopilot?

How good is the autopilot?

I have looked all over for a real world assessment of the autopilot and I can't find one. Does anyone know how much this will do? How , in real life, would you use this thing? I can't imagine driving down the freeway hands free. If anyone has a good link to what this things is capable of, I'd love to see it. Thanks!

Red Sage ca us | 2 novembre 2014

Methinks Autopilot won't be tested 'in the wild' until sometime next year. Tesla Motors will probably be lending examples to magazines such as Car and Driver, Road & Track, and Motor Trend before too long. They will certainly post video impressions on YouTube or their own websites shortly afterward.

Iowa92x | 2 novembre 2014

How would we know.

Pungoteague_Dave | 2 novembre 2014

It is just a slightly enhanced version of what we have been getting for years from Mercedes, and all the other luxury manufacturers - lane keeping, emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, assisted parking. All of the above are on my daughter's Prius. Tesla adds lane change and speed limit reading to this, but that's it. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Actually, I have missed these features on my MS, especially adaptive cruise control, so am upgrading to get back to where our Mercedes were in 2008. This ISN'T really autopilot. There very little intelligence and nothing new. The car cannot drive itself. In fact, the features will shut down if it senses that you are drowsy or if you don;t have two hands on the steering wheel. The key to knowing in advance how it works is the videos of the demonstration roll-out, plus the switchgear that implements all of it being delivered on all new cars now - it is identical to the switchgear on similarly equipped Mercedes, from which Tesla buys its steering wheels and switchgear. It will work pretty much exactly the same way it already does on the Mercedes, maybe with slightly less functionality because Tesla is installing fewer radar sensors in the rear.

Ruizmeza | 2 novembre 2014

Autopilot is able to drive the car autonomously. And I think the current hardware is fully capable of doing so. Take a look at this clip and see how the car maneuvers in the last few seconds and comes very nicely to a soft stop. I'm not sure of other luxury brand capable of doing that today.

Mr. Musk is clearly hands off the wheel, and as far as he stays, the pedals. Now will this be applicable in the wild soon? Probably not fully implemented. But definitely a step on the right direction.

sule | 2 novembre 2014

At the big announcement party Mr. Musk said that the car can park itself into the garage and come to you when you call it or as scheduled. He also said this is presently allowed only on the private property.

Brian H | 2 novembre 2014

"On-ramp to off-ramp."

Mark K | 2 novembre 2014

I was in the D at the event when the test driver took his hands and feet off, and the car fully drove itself, negotiating lanes, speed limits, and smoothly parking behind another car.

I don't think you could characterize that as what Mercedes did in 2008, or even in today's production models.

Red Sage ca us | 2 novembre 2014

Pungoteague_Dave: I was at the Tesla 'D' Event as well. The driver did not have his hands on the steering wheel. The video I shot was rather jumpy, but others have much better, and from the front passenger seat. Here was my experience:

My Test Ride in P85D | 2 novembre 2014

@Red Sage - cool video...thanks for sharing.

Anthony J. Parisio | 3 novembre 2014

I don't think you are right. It looks like Tesla is trying to take it to a whole Nother level. We shall soon see.

michelcolman | 3 novembre 2014

Anyone who says that this is not a true autopilot, has never used an autopilot in an airplane. The reason Elon calls it an autopilot and not an autonomous car is precisely that, just like an airplane autopilot, it still requires you to monitor it and make decisions.

Early airplane autopilots could just maintain a pitch attitude and keep the wings level. Later, they could maintain a heading and an altitude, and turn to a different selected heading. Then altitude interception (climb or descend with a fixed pitch until reaching a preset altitude, then maintain that). Then climbing or descending with a fixed speed (varying pitch to maintain speed). Then autothrottles. Navigation by keeping some navigational radio receiver centered. Navigation between points defined with coordinates. Finally automatic landing (under very stringent conditions, even today, with special ground infrastructure and requiring more work from the crew than for a manual landing).

But even now, on even the most recent airliners, if the crew becomes incapacitated during cruise, the autopilot just flies along the programmed route until it's overhead the destination, still at cruise altitude, then follows the missed approach route (if the approach procedure has been entered from the database), and enters a holding pattern where it remains until it runs out of fuel. Then it tries to maintain the altitude until the speed becomes too low, then the autopilot disengages, and then the plane just glides more or less straight ahead until it crashes.

So, I would say that remaining in its lane, adjusting speed to match the cars in front, and changing lanes on command, is more than enough to qualify this as an autopilot. And unlike earlier systems like that used by Mercedes, you'll be able to take your hands off the wheel completely.

Yes, it will change lanes in front of a car that's approaching at high speed (but which is still too far for the sensors to detect). Guess what, if you tell an airplane to descend while it's directly above another airplane, it will do so as well. You'll get traffic warnings ("Traffic... Traffic... Climb! Climb!") but the autopilot won't react to that, it's up to the pilots to take over.

Red Sage ca us | 3 novembre 2014

michelcolman: +1 UP! Thank you. That is exactly as I perceived Autopilot as well. I have noted repeatedly that is a system that requires human attention and engagement. It is not an automatic system designed to take all responsibility from the driver. You must activate it yourself, just as you would cruise control.

Mark K | 3 novembre 2014

Michelcolman - nicely done. The precedent in aviation illustrates the point.

An autopilot is not expected to be an autonomous drone.

Autopilot is a very fair descriptor for what we experienced at the D event.

And today, they're is no other car you can buy with it.

The Model S is distinctly further along the automation path than any other car.

ghillair | 3 novembre 2014

Here is Motor Trend's review of the P85D including autopilot.

Haggy | 3 novembre 2014

I think the problem is that in the various test drives, statements such as "all you do [to engage this feature] is..." left out a few words, and didn't include literally all you do. For example, to change lanes you first look in your side view mirror. If you don't see a car in your blind spot, the car should catch it. If the car is going so much faster than yours and the sensors won't see it, it won't be in your blind spot when you check the mirror.

"All you do is..." doesn't mention looking at the dashboard and not ignoring what it says or not expecting it to work when lane lines are missing or when the ground is covered with snow.

David N | 3 novembre 2014

Thanks for the link. That was a great article.

Red Sage ca us | 3 novembre 2014

Haggy: Just make sure that you say 'all the words' when you demonstrate the feature to your Friends and Family.



Brian H | 3 novembre 2014

Yes, a nice long well-written article. Saved.

Pungoteague_Dave | 4 novembre 2014

The Toyota Prius and Mercedes systems also stay in lane automatically. They self-park. They brake autonomously. They only thing that Tesla has that's extra is sign reading and lane change.

grega | 4 novembre 2014

I think the "features" of autopilot could be identical, yet the quality of implementation makes a huge difference.

I hate the adaptive cruise control from my father's Lexus 460 from 3 years ago. Bends sometimes confuse it, and it holds me back quite a distance from the car ahead - plus when a car changes into the lane in front of me it hits the brakes to maintain distance.

Doing things right makes a huge difference. It needs to genuinely help your driving.

Haggy | 4 novembre 2014

I'm impressed by how well cars I've owned have handled bends in the road, to the point that I was able to leave ACC on while following a car onto an on ramp that made a circle before putting me on a freeway. I expect that there will be times it might get confused, which is why I hover my foot near the brakes in those cases. The nice thing is that when I move it from hovering over the gas pedal, the car is still acting on its own. So if I did need to brake, it would have been far quicker and that also shuts off ACC.

I don't know about Lexus and nobody here knows how well the Tesla will do (unless they are covered by an NDA) when things are implemented, but just because everybody else didn't get it right doesn't mean that it won't work in the MS.

grega | 4 novembre 2014

I'm sure the model s can do a good job..

The iPhone 1 had features that my Nokia had (less features actually) but was well implemented.

It'll be Teslas implementation of acc etc that determines whether they've made leaps beyond competitors.

Pungoteague_Dave | 5 novembre 2014

Much of it will be the same operation and feel as Mercedes, as it uses their hardware in the most important areas, such as steering column motor and vibrator, all switches and levers. Obviously software and screen interface will be a key difference, and those are all Tesla - and "Coming soon."

Red Sage ca us | 5 novembre 2014

Pungoteague_Dave: Not quite the 'only thing', as Autopilot is designed to operate at all speeds. Also, it is unlikely other systems will allow a car to self park, without a human driver in the seat. 'SOON' typically arrives on the Soonday before Neverday.

Haggy | 5 novembre 2014

I read that "soon" meant "some time in October." I'm now beginning to doubt that.

neil | 5 novembre 2014

Can't speak to grega's Dad's Lexus 460, but mine minds the bends very well. As far as slowing down when someone cuts you off, yes, there's a bit of a jerk, but then again, I wouldn't want to plow into the offender's back side. At least not by accident.
We all hope that the MS implementation of ACC is best-in-class, but we'll all have to wait and see. I feel lucky to have one of the cars that had the new sensors installed. That was shear luck. Now waiting for version 1.0 of the Autopilot ... hope we'll be lucky there too.

Pungoteague_Dave | 5 novembre 2014

I know it was mentioned in passing, but there's NO WAY any Tesla, or any car, will self-park or return from parking without a driver in the seat. I know Elon said it will only work on private property, but mark my words, it will never happen. The legal liability issues are too great. As soon as I heard him say it, I concluded that this was just one more example of Elon getting out over his skis and far beyond what's technically or safely feasible. Think about playing children, pets, garage doors, etc. The included sensors are not anywhere close to sophisticated enough to pull off unassisted driving to a parking spot. Elon also said all of the new functions are driver assists and require a driver to control them. I heard his comment about independent self parking as a hypothetical, not a promise for this version of the car. I'd love it if it were true, but it is totally unrealistic. This car will be able to do head in, back in, and parallel parking with the driver operating the throttle, and the car doing the steering, just like all the other parking assist features out there on modem Mercedes and Toyotas and others.

I would love to pull up in front of my house, get out, and command the car to finish the circle, drive into the courtyard driveway, open one of the garage doors, back into the parking space, and close the door. The hardware isn't there, and the software is many years from that working reliably enough for autonomous safe implementation of the function. Even if it were possible, how about plugging the car in? You'd still have to do it by hand. This is a non-answer in search of a problem.

Haggy | 5 novembre 2014

I for one won't put up with any car that can't park itself. If I have to get into the car just to get it out of my garage, then why even own a car? It's bad enough that my charging flap has to be closed manually.

JZ13 | 5 novembre 2014

@PD, I hope you are being facetious but I don't think you are. Mark Elon's words, self parking on private party is a few months away. Computers are FAR SUPERIOR to humans when it comes to automotive safety. The computer will be able to spot a bouncing ball and a running child instantaneously. As soon as that is sensed the car will slow to see if the danger worsens. If it does the car will stop.

And you are wrong about autopilot for highway driving. Mercedes will not steer the car unassisted like the Tesla does. I'm often disappointed at your pessimism given your Tesla ownership status. I will place your autopilot comments in the same trash bin as I have placed your battery swap comments.

SamO | 5 novembre 2014

+1 JZ13

DC@Tesla | 5 novembre 2014

Elon specifically said the ultrasonic sensors can detect soft targets (e.g. animals, moving kids), and based on GPS and sensors could technically park itself and come to you. It was amusing though when he wondered aloud "Gosh, how do I design the charging cable to come and attach itself to the car"!

Pungoteague_Dave | 5 novembre 2014

There aren't enough cameras (only one) or radar sensors on the new autopilot for the car to be able to drive and park itself a block away without a driver. There are no painted lines on driveways. You guys don't seriously think the car will actually put itself in gear, operate the throttle, turn the wheel through complex turns, and open the garage and park? Seriously?. I would love it, but it will absolutely do nothing of the sort. My incoming 2015 Ford F150 has far more sophisticated self-awareness (six cameras) and virtually the same level of autopilot except for lane change. There is absolutely no way the current MS autopilot will put the car in gear and drive away to park itself. Not even close. The first time it runs over someone's foot or worse, the company is toast.

I can't believe that anyone really believes that autopilot will put our P85D in gear and drive away without a driver. You can't be serious.

Pungoteague_Dave | 5 novembre 2014

@jz13, I have owned Mercedes and a Prius that had active lane keeping and would steer the car to maintain center of lane. Neither the MS AP system nor any of the competitors' systems can operate when the lane lines disappear or when obscured. Does your private parking area or driveway have painted lines? If not, how will the car "see" to drive and park? The whole idea is a silly nonstarter. Another example of Elon getting out in front of reality. The AP does not have anywhere near enough hardware "systems" to drive/park autonomously. Elon said as much when he also commented that a driver is still required to use the new AP system. Quoting "It cannot drive itself. I previously thought self driving cars were ten years away but based on the technology we have been able to put on the new cars, I have revised that and now believe it will be possible in five years." Does that sound like Elon believes the current models will actually put themselves in gear and drive off to park? Not gonna happen.

Anyone who believes the new Teslas will put themselves in gear and drive away on their own, even on private property, are both incredibly gullible and naive. It would be very cool, but the car doesn't have anywhere near enough cameras or sensors to pull that off. I say this as a huge fan and customer with a Dec delivery P85D. I am willing to put my money where my mouth is. Taking any bets...

JZ13 | 5 novembre 2014

@PD - You're right, Elon has a long history of it intentionally misleading his customers on such a large scale promise. Just like battery swap. In which you were 100% adamant that it was not technically feasible.

Mark K | 5 novembre 2014


Pungoteague_Dave | 6 novembre 2014

So how am I wrong? How much are you willing to wager? We know the car is designed to use the single Forward camera to follow painted lane markings, and that it cannot use the lane functions without painted lines. How will it function autonomously in your driveway? The hardware simply isn't there.

sbeggs | 6 novembre 2014

It might be possible to use geofencing to train your Model S, programming a maneuver that precisely memorizes the turns, clearances and dimensions to park itself in your garage. Once it learns those turns and dimensions, it theoretically could execute it perfectly every time. It could also be associated with the Homelink coming up on the screen.

dortor | 6 novembre 2014

None of this matters until they actually deliver it...then we will see.

Grinnin'.VA | 6 novembre 2014

@ Pungoteague_Dave | November 5, 2014

I know it was mentioned in passing, but there's NO WAY any Tesla, or any car, will self-park or return from parking without a driver in the seat.

IMO, you're underestimating the power of computers in dealing with the challenges you're concerned about.

Go Tesla!
Ron :)

Pungoteague_Dave | 6 novembre 2014

But that's not what Elon said. He didn't refer to geofencing or learning a maneuver. If I remember correctly, he said it would go "find" a parking spot. I presume this means in a commercial private lot.

Does anyone believe the car's steering mechanism also had memory and such precise sensors that it can recall a complicated parking sequence? Naive and gullible don't begin to define anyone who believes there is any way that any car can put itself in gear and drive away empty in todays legal environment, even if the car had the technical capability to do it, which I contend I content the MS does not have.

Pungoteague_Dave | 6 novembre 2014

Content = contend

sbeggs | 6 novembre 2014

Right. However, it would be a good start to use geofencing and learning one maneuver (parking itself in its own garage). Then attempt to scale that to unknown parking spaces using a much more robust radar suite and programming.

Bighorn | 6 novembre 2014

When you consider that humans can legally drive with only one eye in many states and that eye is receptive to a very small band of the EM spectrum, the combination of multiple sensors and computer power certainly has the commonsense potential to exceed human abilities with current day tech.

Haggy | 6 novembre 2014

One eye isn't as bad as many people think. When I was younger, I often wondered about things such as how an eagle could spot prey a mile away and get to it accurately without binocular vision. I also wondered why pigeons bobbed their heads when they walked. Then it occurred to me that if you have two distinct views of each step when you walk, you have all the parallax information you need for depth perception. I realized that if I closed one eye, I lost depth perception for things such as picture frames across the room. But if I started shaking my head, it came back. If a car is standing still, there's no depth information to be gained from a single camera if the view is still. But when moving, the differences in parallax data from progressive information will allow data from a camera to compute distance of some objects in its field of vision. The closer ones will change position more relative to the distant ones, and the car knows its speed. It won't necessarily know the speed of a moving ball or of a small child, but it will have an idea of how close they are.

There are 3D televisions that can do a decent job of simulating 3D by analyzing components of a picture. And they lack the speed data if the camera itself was moving. It should be possible to process data from a single camera and compare the results (in terms of data used in the process of controlling the car) and comparing it to a 3D camera mounted in the same car to see how well the software is working.

Having a single camera with good software that not only knows the speed of the car, but the distance of objects as provided by the other sensors, can go far beyond what a person can do with two eyes. While the process of using the data from a single camera can be done better than people realize, it's the combination of everything that's relevant.

rkteck1245 | 6 novembre 2014

If Audi can do it, surely the MS can find a way

CheckeredFlag | 6 novembre 2014

AutoPilot version 1

Pungoteague_Dave | 6 novembre 2014

Audi cannot do it commercially yet. The system in that video is a prototype that Audi says is a decade away from reality. It operates only with special lasers and a custom WiFi system installed in the demonstration garage. It also has six cameras on the car. And when demonstrating, Audi clears the area and has no other traffic in the garage. The following article points out that the GPS system cannot operate indoors. How will Tesla deal with that? The answer is that it can't. Totally not ready for prime time. Read this about the Audi prototype:

Haggy | 6 novembre 2014

GPS has limited capability indoors, but cars still know how much they are moving and in what direction. They seem pretty good at keeping on the right place on the map in an underground parking lot two levels down. I don't remember if I checked specifically with the MS, but I don't see why it would need a GPS indoors.

Brian H | 6 novembre 2014

JB & EM, or P_D? A million quatloos on the former.

Red Sage ca us | 6 novembre 2014

"You mus learn to be my enemy before you can learn to be my friend!" -- Insane World Computer, 'Star Trek'

Park your car. Bring up a menu. Click 'Save Parking Space'.


Easier than saving the settings for your preferred driving position.