My Experience and Views of Tesla Autopilot

Published July 19, 2016

While I feel like anyone who has tried to read a balanced version of the media several weeks after the story broke can read the facts for themselves (example here), I felt compelled to give my friends and colleagues a perspective and some first person (and slightly subjective) data:

– first, I have been using autopilot on my Model S since the very first day it launched. My guess is that I have been clocking 2k miles per month on the SoCal highways (mostly the 101 and the 405) and I have also been to Vegas four times and Phoenix once. 
– when it first launched, it was soooo beta. I blogged about some of the incidents previously and driving at speeds greater than 60 mph without your hands on the wheel or at least prepared to quickly take over is wreckless
– I do find it incredibly helpful in my everyday stop and go traffic on the 101 and 405 to/from work, but would openly state that the adaptive cruise control is the more valuable portion while the in lane steering still needs improvement
– I have had several potential accidents avoided where some jack ass suddenly jumped into my lane without looking/caring and the autopilot hit the brakes that split second ahead of me
– in LA, there are often cement barriers next to the HOV lane I drive in, so even a slight mistake by the autopilot could result in a trip to the body shop
– the fleet learning is real. Areas of the road that previously caused challenges have been fixed over time, but there are still plenty of places and times of day (sunset) where the car forces me to take control (appropriately so)
– my best use cases are:
   A) stop and go < 40 mph. I relax and let the car do its thing for the most part
   B) long highway driving (sans barrier) where the autopilot seriously reduces fatigue
   C) helping me thru distractions (incoming urgent text, an engrossed phone call, changing my podcast or music)– which always happened before autopilot but was a much bigger risk

And I would openly state that anyone who believes they can drive at full highway speeds and not pay attention (which would include ignoring the many warnings of the system) is incredibly cavalier and will likely end up as a negative statistic soon.  But for the rest of the adult driving population, this is an incredible driving enhancement that reduces long range driving fatigue, reduces stress in traffic, and reduces overall probability of accidents.

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