While autonomous driving can still seem like it’s ages away from picking you up and whisking you off on a road trip, a cool new video shines a light at the speed with which the technology is progressing. In the video, the user tries the same difficult turn over the course of three months of successive autopilot updates.
Like a distracted teen, autopilot is unable to handle the off-ramp turn when the video starts, requiring the owner to intervene. But by the end, the Tesla can pull off the highway smoothly and on its own. As it stands, the semi-autonomous capability is already functioning as a high-caliber cruise control that can take highway off-ramps and switch lanes. But this wasn’t the case a handful of months ago.
Thanks to consistent software updates during the tail end of last year, Autopilot enters 2019 as one of the most sophisticated semi-autonomous car systems readily available to consumers. YouTuber and Model 3 owner Scott Kubo documented Autopilot’s impressive progress over the span of three updates that rolled out between September and December of 2018 in a video posted on January 5.
Kubo says he tested the software using the same sharp off-ramp with a 20 mph advisory speed on a California highway. His first test, conducted using Autopilot v8.1 2018.36.2 on September 20, 2018, is almost a little scary for how close the car gets to veering off the road.
“This really was the curve of death because in version eight of the Tesla Autopilot software the car was unable to handle the turn and would have ran off the road if I hadn’t taken over,” he explains.
The following November Autopilot v9 2018.43.3 update brought about a notable improvement, enabling Kubo’s Model 3 to take the curve at around 23 mph. Finally, the v9 2018.48.12 update that came a month and a half later let the vehicle autonomously take the off-ramp confidently at roughly 25 to 26 mph.
It was around the same time that Musk took to Twitter to elaborate on what Autopilot is capable. On December 9, he said it can “automatically pass slow cars and take highway interchanges and off-ramps,” which Kubo’s video proves.
Musk followed up by saying that Tesla was testing a whole new set of Autopilot skills, including fully-autonomous driving from home to work.
“Already testing traffic lights, stop signs & roundabouts in development software,” he tweeted. “Your Tesla will soon be able to go from your garage at home to parking at work with no driver input at all.”
While Autopilot might still not be able to handle all conditions on the road, it’s inching closer to self-driving with every update. In the grand scheme of things, 3 months doesn’t seem all that long at all, particularly when we’re talking about a “curve of death.”