Tesla’s newest Autopilot updates need to get a little more aggressive, a number of early adopters have suggested. The company’s “Navigate on Autopilot” feature that launched in September changes lanes on the highway depending on the driver’s GPS-inputted destination, an exciting step toward Tesla’s long-term goal of hands-off-wheel autonomous driving. But while the system may act as a cautious driver, users are concerned that the software requires too big a lane gap that makes heavy traffic a pain.
Joey Gil recorded his Tesla Model 3 running software version nine (2018.42.2) running along Highway 101 into the Interstate 405 near Los Angeles, sharing the video Tuesday. While largely pleased with the performance, Gil agreed with CEO Elon Musk that the car could do with an aggressive mode for Los Angeles traffic.
In general, I feel Musk’s joke of a setting above Mad Max mode being ‘Los Angeles Traffic Mode’ may need to be a thing. To be more effective, Nav on AP needs to be more aggressive on lane changes, and go into smaller gaps. To be fair, this is the first public deployment of Nav on AP, and it’s best to be cautious, putting more emphasis on safety than on efficacy. Thinking like a drug trial, this is Phase I, the safety trial. Later we’ll see improvements in efficacy, hopefully.
Watch Gil’s assessment with the system below:
Reddit user “CashForRedditGold” shared their experiences on Wednesday, explaining how the feature is so far “mixed” but “most of my complaints are fixable.” Like Gil, the user noted that the car struggles to assert itself among drivers:
The car STRUGGLES big time to switch lanes in slow heavy traffic. It needs a huge margin to merge in safely, which doesn’t exist in LA bumper to bumper traffic. If it tells me to move lanes, and I flip the turn signal on when an opening appears, the car starts to merge in and then panics and jumps back and forth until I take over as the opening doesn’t last long enough. I always have to manually merge as a result.
Another Reddit user, “ekobres,” agreed with this assessment by describing the feature as “a stress monster that makes driving in heavy traffic a white-knuckle, embarrassing, exercise in frustration.” The user also acknowledged that “it’s unlikely to get worse […] I guess if it actually caught the batteries on fire as it tried to change lanes it could theoretically be worse.”
Another Autopilot video, uploaded by Mike Arney on Tuesday, shows the Model 3 on the same software version as Gil running in poor weather conditions. Arney said that while the auto-steer worked well, it struggled to navigate in the wet weather:
It does, however, work effectively when conditions are favorable and drivers allow enough room for moving.
Tesla is set to roll out its A.I. chip to enable full autonomous driving over the next few months. Musk admits, however, that it’s “extremely difficult” to build a general purpose autonomy solution, meaning the company will have to iron out the kinks before it can think about putting the full autonomy chip through its paces with a wide release.