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The Beauty of Autopilot

Discussion in 'Software and Firmware' started by 3V Pilot, Sep 13, 2018 at 11:31 PM.

  1. 3V Pilot

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    TLDR synopsis: Autopilot is addictive and when used as intended increases safety while reducing workload and stress.....but you already knew that (unless you don't have it).

    So, I've had my Model 3 since mid April and just ticked over 10,000 miles. From the very moment Autopilot was done calibrating I've always engaged it (or TACC) as soon as the system showed as ready with either the gray steering wheel icon or gray circled speed limit. I'm not talking about something I've done occasionally or waited for the times it might come in handy, I'm talking about engaging the system literally within the first second of it being available for well over 95% of all driving. I've found the spots on my daily commute where it's not perfect and where I know it will disengage every time. I've also learned when and where to disengage or manually control the steering or speed in order to drive smoother then re-engage the system within seconds once past those areas. For instance slowing well before a red light or at that spot where the freeway lanes split and it's not quite sure which one to take. The point being that I've learned how and when to use the system to it's full potential and when to expect that it will not be perfect. Initially this was more experimentation and really learning the systems capabilities and limitations but it turned into and entirely different way to drive the car than I could of ever imagined.

    Why does this matter and why did I decide to post all of this, well, now it's time for "the rest of the story"........

    A few days ago I received that most coveted of all Tesla gifts, the magical "Software update ready" notification on my Tesla app. Being that it was 4am and I was barley awake of course had no bearing on what to do next. I jumped out of bed, headed straight to the garage and started the update. Hoping for Version 9 but knowing that was probably not the case I was still like a kid on Christmas morning, hoping and waiting for whatever magical new treats Elon had placed under the tree. Well, things didn't go as planned and when I hopped in the car to leave for work the screen said "Software updated failed, contact Tesla Service". At first I wondered if I could even drive the car or what kind of problems I might have but that didn't stop me and I was happy to see Reverse selected when I shifted upwards on the stock. However, as you've probably guessed Autopilot and TACC were no longer working. I called Tesla service right away and they said the updated failed at point where the autopilot software installs, plus they told me it was a known issue but I think they've been conditioned to tell everyone that for every issue (like it makes us feel better about not being the only one). They said they would push an update to the car but it would take between 1 and 4 days to get it done.

    For 2 long days I had to drive my car completely in the old fashioned method of full manual control and a few things really struck me. First off the fact that I had become so totally dependent on Autopilot assisting me with lane control and keeping speed that it was really annoying to have to go back to doing those things myself. It felt so distracting and frankly unsafe once the car didn't "have my back" so to speak. I always maintain my awareness while using the Autopilot system but I've very quickly come to rely on it for taking the load off and allowing me to concentrate more on the big picture of what's around. Now that I was back to concentrating on the small stuff like speed and maintaining the car in the lane it was much less relaxing and I didn't have the same level of concentration or awareness of other traffic and surroundings. It really made driving much more of a task and much less enjoyable.

    I recently attended a Tesla Club meeting where I heard several drivers comment that they rarely use Autopilot because one time it didn't work right or because the warnings to keep your hands on the wheel come far too often now. I guess I wanted to post this for those of you out there in that camp. If you've decided not to trust the system I FULLY AGREE with you, you SHOULDN'T "Trust" it! However, that does not mean you shouldn't use it. I don't trust (or expect) an old fashioned cruise control to keep the car from running into a fire truck that's stopped on the freeway and I certainly don't trust (or expect) Autopilot to do that either. What I would suggest though is use the system as much as possible and learn what it can and can't do. Use it for everything it's worth and in every way you can to make your drive safer and more relaxing. Use it to concentrate on what it's best at so you can concentrate more on everything else. Once you do it will not take very long until you are addicted like me and can't live without it!........or, maybe you just really want to keep driving this spaceship like it's still a horse and buggy, I don't know, it's up to you. I'm sure some people will never trust the system or maybe just prefer to drive themselves. For me, I'll never go back now that I know the difference and I'm not sure I would of realized that had it not been for those 2 days......

    If you've made it this far I'll lend a little more perspective as to why I might be more inclined to push this system to it's limits than what most people would be willing to try. This is not to persuade you against doing so but just to give you a further understanding of where I'm coming from with all of this. For the last 3 decades I've made my living by controlling complex machinery in some very high stress and high workload multitasking environments. What does all that mean, well hand flying helicopters using Night Vision Goggles in mountainous terrain and bad weather for a start. That's akin to driving 100+ MPH while blindfolded and attempting not to hit what you can't see (okay maybe not that bad but you get the idea). I've flown all sorts of helicopters and airplanes for many years and the vast majority of my 7000+ hours of flight time has been without the aid of any type of autopilot system. I say all of this because I'm very used to operating machinery at it's limit and mine. Having a system in a car that, on occasion may swerve a little or phantom brake when it doesn't need to doesn't really bother me. I just take control when needed and I never feel like the car "tried to kill me" or take it personally. It's just a machine, doing the best it can do with the brain it's got.

    It may not be for everyone to push the limits of the system the way I do but it's also not BEYOND ANYONE either. If you really want to get the most out of this car and what it can do, let it do it's thing and gradually increase your own comfort level. Keep a good cushion of space in front, behind, all around and also maintain your awareness while you let the Autopilot take some of the load off. The more you use it the more you will want to, it just takes a little time to get there.

    Overall I think that Autopilot is the bleeding edge of technology and yes, of course there is room for improvement. However it truly is a great feature that makes driving much more safe, relaxing and I've come to be a firm believer in using it at all times.

    I'm sure there are others here who might feel just as strongly against using it all the time but that's one reason why I started this post. What's your thoughts?????
     
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  2. RichEV

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    100% agree! Thanks for the excellent post. I have learned how to "happily and safely dance with my autopliot partner". I know her quirks, and I know she will improve over time. OTA updates rock!
     
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  3. bpjod

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    My thoughts exactly. I use EAP much the same as you. I also had a failed update with the same error, although I only had 6,000 km behind the wheel by that time, less than half your experience. The 5 days without EAP taught me how much I've come to enjoy it's assistance. I take control away from it a lot for instance to let someone in ahead of me, to avoid potholes, to not drive in the rain filled ruts so as to avoid hydroplaning, to keep the speed limit on the stretch of highway I always drive that the mapping software thinks is 70 kph, but it's really 100 kph, etc. However this doesn't bother me in the least (well except for the map error), it's an amazing driver aid, even if I occasionally must take over.
     
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  4. PNWmisty

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    While the Autopilot in my Model 3 has never "taken a vacation" after an update, I do know that I would miss it precisely for the reasons shared.

    I use it quite a bit on narrow roads that are not well marked or divided and am amazed at its ability to detect the road edges simply by the line of debris that forms about where the white line would be if there was one. However, in rural situations, I don't think I would miss it too much if it was disabled for any reason.

    Where it really pays for itself is on busy urban freeways and arterials with fast-moving, chaotic traffic. And I agree, it really does free up my mind to focus on the things that really matter. I find myself looking further ahead and also in my mirrors more when I have Autopilot to manage the speed and lane position. And it's super relaxing to use in slow-moving stop-n-go. In that kind of traffic, without Autopilot, I sometimes feel stressed and impatient. It's tedious and mindless to continually creep forward only to stop again and again or creep along at 5-15 mph for miles. With Autopilot engaged I feel like a load has been removed from my shoulders. I allow my mind to wander more while, of course, still watching what's going on around me. It's almost enough to make me want to go find a traffic jam to insert myself in.;)
     
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  5. 3V Pilot

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    Okay, well it's good to know that I'm not the only one that feels this way! After some of the comments I heard I was really starting to wonder and just felt the need to share my thoughts.
     
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  6. MelindaV

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    Great post @3V Pilot
    Couple questions I’d like your opinion on (or other diehard AP users)...
    Thoughts on FSD? My delivery is scheduled for early next week and still up in the air on having FSD added prior to driving off with it. My thought process is, if the FSD get the upgraded brain, even if FSD isn’t around for a number of years, EAP I’m sure could benefit from it, even if “not needed” as Elon has said.
    And I rented a Model 3 last weekend for a trip to Seattle (160 miles each way) and started out in AP, in the right hand lane and while it was fine 99% of the time, its attempt to recenter itself at on-ramps (without delineating striping) got tiring and eventually went to just TACC. Do you generally avoid the right lane?
    I returned this car Monday morning near my office, so got to experience my typical morning commute as well. There often is an area following an interchange where traffic lightens up and speeds up, then a mile further comes to a full stop. In your experience, how well has it done to pick up those cars that are stopped ahead of you, but outside what it is tracking (at least as shown on the screen)? In my case, I ended up disengaging it as it came up to the stopped traffic to be cautious but wasn’t sure if the system could have safely dealt with that.
     
  7. RichEV

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    - FSD-
    I got it at purchase because I want to be there as soon as some functionality is available. and to get free hardware upgrades to the brains
    - exit wandering -
    Yes, generally I avoid the right lane, although I will say it has gotten slightly better over the releases at holding the line with short right-side gaps in the lane marking for exits. Mostly I just hold on a little tighter to the wheel and if it does try to veer the autosteer turns off.
    - distant stopped traffic -
    I still sometimes disengage when headed toward a stopped car at 45-50 mph. The times I have let it go it brakes slightly harder than I would prefer but it does stop safely.
     
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  8. MelindaV

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    thanks - the car I had, was a few FW versions back (IIRC 2018.28.x). I didn't notice it wandering on the exit gaps, just the onramp gaps, but do think it is related to how those are striped, as the exit approach is a smaller blank area vs the onramp merging side.
    On approaching stopped cars, I've not heard of any EAP engaged cars rear ending someone, but didn't want to be the one, especially in someone else's car ;)
     
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  9. PNWmisty

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    As you become familiar with Autopilots behavior, you will find there are situations where it will not react as soon as an attentive driver who is anticipating slowdowns ahead and that it is more efficient to coast into them rather than continue at 65 mph until you actually need to slow down. In those cases, I cancel autopilot so I can coast into the backup. To answer your question, Autopilot would probably deal with that situation safely, but not in the most elegant fashion.

    As you gain proficiency in Autopilot use you will become more adept at seamlessly transitioning between manual driving and Autopilot, it will become second nature and you won't even think about it. Before I had much experience with it, I often had that "deer in the headlights" feeling because I wasn't sure how it all worked. I would jerk the wheel to the side to disengage it. Now I flick the lever up while simultaneously depressing the accelerator partway to modulate regenerative braking and seamlessly and gradually slow down.
     
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  10. NJturtlePower

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    [​IMG]

    Haha ;) No really though....my EAP 2-week trial ended last week and it won't be missed.

    IF you commute on well marked roadways 25+ miles per day I can see how Auto Pilot would be useful, but if you are a city or local short haul commuter (5-15mi daily) like myself the package adds little to no value.

    Auto Park almost NEVER would come up in even some of the better marked lots.

    Summon is a cool party trick, nothing more (and slow at that).

    And while not exactly related, FSD is only a myth..besides helping Tesla out with a zero-return loan for X amount of years to come. Personally, I would have spent that money on a nice watch, a pair of good sunglasses and a sundial in the yard so you can track the time that goes by until you get anything in return.

    All just IMO of course... and I love my 3 in every way...so If could add any single part of EAP it would only be TACC for the times I take a longer drive or small road trip. The rest of the driving experience is too much fun to be hands off. ;)
     
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  11. PNWmisty

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    True, no matter how nice the auto-lane-keeping feature is, I wouldn't want to be without Traffic Aware Cruise Control!
     
  12. Ed Woodrick

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    While I'll agree with the views, I really hate calling this autopilot. It's adaptive cruise control and lane guidance.
    There are a lot of cars on the road with the same features, my 2018 Leaf does the same thing.
     
  13. PNWmisty

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    "Autopilot" is a Tesla trademarked name for their system. The Model 3 has "Enhanced Autopilot".

    Nissan has the "Propilot" trademark which, if you think about it, could imply even more expertise and ability than "Auto". I don't think we should get too hung up on tradenames as long as the manufacturer makes it clear that driver awareness is still required.
     
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  14. garsh

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    <cough>PROpilot</cough> ;)

    Autopilot is a very appropriate name for the feature. It really is analogous to an airplane autopilot. The original airplane autopilot would maintain altitude and heading. It didn't avoid other airplanes. It didn't avoid military bases. It didn't avoid storm fronts. It just kept the plane on a path, much like Tesla Autopilot keeps a car in a lane.
     
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  15. Ed Woodrick

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    Yea, but an airplane autopilot can take you across the country! And even today, in an airplane with "autopilot" you expect a lot more than just direction and altitude holding. Today you expect to be able to plot multiple segments with varying information, even to the point of runway to runway.
     
  16. PNWmisty

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    You mean some autopilots have more capability than other autopilots?

    I'm OK with that. Just like some GPS's can do multi-point routes and others can only go point to point. Even though they have different capabilities, they are both GPS's.
     
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  17. Ed Woodrick

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    I believe that Nissan went with ProPilot just to help make sure that the public doesn't expect full driving. And full self driving is indeed what most people think when they hear autopilot.

    I think that we also do a little disservice to the future when we look back and try to describe the feature set that we have now. When we get V9, is it fair to call both it and the current generation "autopilot" When FSD comes, will it be fair to call V9 "autopilot"

    And most importantly, what is the definition of autopilot. It you to back down to it, every vehicle with cruise control has autopilot.
     
  18. MelindaV

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    this has been debated for years already, but I'll just add that is personal perception of what the meaning is. Myself, as "people", do not think of fully self driving because of the autopilot name. 'propilot' to me sounds like they picked that name simply because it sounds like tesla's autopilot name and they likely figured they could piggy back off it.
     
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  19. PNWmisty

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    When you think about the task of driving, there are basically three controls that control the cars motion, the steering, the throttle and the brake.

    A regular cruise control only controls the throttle.
    Traffic-aware cruise control controls the throttle and the brake.
    Auto-pilot controls the throttle, the brake and the steering wheel.

    Can Autopilot handle all roads and all conditions? No.
    Can an aviation autopilot handle all runways? No. The runway has to be equipped with auxiliary equipment.
    Can an aviation autopilot handle all weather conditions? No, there are limitations.

    I guess I don't see the distinction you are trying to make. No autopilot can do everything, they all have limitations and those limitations are specific to each individual autopilot.

    But I don't have high hopes I can change your mind.
     
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  20. Bokonon

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    Yup. All of the lane-centering systems I've driven tried (including Autosteer) have had issues with highway exits. I'd be curious to know whether a map-based system like SuperCruise performs any better in this particular regard.

    Rose Quarter? :)

    To add to what PNWMisty said about it braking later / more aggressively than a human driver would, I've learned to use the right-hand scroll wheel to gradually slow the car down when I see or anticipate stopped traffic in the distance. If you spin it toward you slowly (not the - 5mph fast spin) you can mimic the smooth, gradual slowdown of lightly letting up on the go pedal. When the car eventually sees the traffic, it won't brake as aggressively, and once it brings you to a stop, Autosteer will still be engaged to help you crawl along.

    I've started using this trick on my commute home in an area where traffic typically behaves as you described (slow-ish --> faster --> full stop), and it has worked pretty well. And as an added complication, the "full stop" usually happens right around a curve, so Autopilot has less time to react, making the human assist all the more helpful. :)
     
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