Autopilot changes in firmware 2018.10.4

One thing (among the others) that differentiate Tesla from other automakers is the software updates. We are so used to receiving them frequently and regularly that when there’s a short period of “drought” we feel like something must be amiss and conspiracy theories abound as to why this is happening.

The release notes for each update usually capture the general user functionality improvements, missing out a lot of other things that are being quietly updated “under the hood”. For example, this particular software only mentions the ability to open frunk/trunk from the Tesla app – it completely misses out that there has been a lot of work done around Autopilot. I have seen a number of reports from people who received this update before me that this is one major improvement. No surprise then that I wanted to test it for myself as soon as the update was installed on my car. Now, you might have remembered me cautioning about blindly entrusting your fate in the “hands” of Autopilot. To find out if the changes were as good as people claim to be, I hit my favorite road again.

I must say, it is impressive. None of the previous issues I have observed seem to persist anymore. The car behaves as if it was on rails, following the road with confidence-aspiring precision. Here’s a video to compare:

One of the other improvements (and potential pitfalls) I have noticed is the ability to handle wide lanes (such as parkways or on-/off-ramps) – the car recognizes it and automatically centers itself:IMG_3697

It is definitely better than in the past (the “ping-pong” effect is mostly gone), but in some cases, it might appear that we are trying to be a jerk and block the whole width of the lane, as if to prevent the person just joining the highway from potentially overtaking us in the process. I’ve also had one encounter when driving at night that could easily turn into a dangerous situation. I was following the driver ahead of me on a stretch of the divided highway where lane markings were amiss – my car decided that it must be a lane merge and quickly centered itself as it was a single lane!  This is exactly the same road I travel on daily and have used Autopilot numerous times- the only difference is that it was during the night and with a vehicle ahead of me, so the lane marking detection might have been obstructed (we just resumed the travel from a traffic light, so my distance to the leading vehicle was closer than the preset value of 5 seconds). Another evidence that one has to stay focused and not to rely on convenience features to replace our common sense.

* * *

After the recent fatal accident involving Model X on California’s highway, Tesla has issued number of statements as the investigation was ongoing. While it was not certain at first, it was concluded that Autopilot has been involved after all. This should serve as a reminder to everyone that the feature is there to assist the driver and by no means to replace one – we are ultimately responsible and in charge of the vehicle. Tesla has also updated its Autopilot page by adding the following line:

“Every driver is responsible for remaining alert and active when using Autopilot, and must be prepared to take action at any time.”

Ditto.

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