Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Tesla and Autopilot

      Tesla has been making big strides in the "SmartCar" industry.  One area in particular they've been working on rigorously is the autopilot feature.  The autopilot feature allows for the driver to hand the driving entirely over to the car.  Although other companies are also working towards perfecting this feature, Tesla has made the most progress thus far.
      The autopilot feature all starts with the sensors on the car.  There are twelve ultrasonic sensors placed all about the car's body that can detect an object from sixteen feet away.  These sensors not only detect objects, but can also sense the velocity of the object.  The author of the Gizmag blog actually took a Tesla out to test the autopilot feature for himself.  As one might imagine, he said it was a bit unnerving when the car literally took over. He says that Tesla tries to make it a less stressful experience by putting a screen on the dashboard showing what the car is detecting.  It will show how far the car is in front of you as well as how close things are around the car by color coding the objects around the car.  Knowing what the car is actually sensing makes the experience much less unnerving.  Although the feature seems pretty advanced and polished, Tesla still warns the user to remain attentive in case of any technical failures requiring the driver to take back over.  For example, a sensor could somehow be compromised, compromising the autopilot feature as a whole.  In this event, the driver has to be prepared to operate the vehicle again.  Ultimately, this article shows the technical specifications of the autopilot feature, but also shows that it is not yet perfected.  Based on the specs and the author's firsthand experience, I think it has a lot of promise, but I would still feel uneasy using it because it is such a new concept with various potential problems as listed above.
      There are a few areas that I do not think the article addressed.  Firstly, it never shows how the autopilot feature functions outside of ideal weather conditions.  It does not address how it functions in heavy rain or snow.  This is something that I believe would be important to readers because it only addresses ideal conditions. I would want to know if the system would be safe to use in inclement weather.  Another thing the article does not address is parking.  The autopilot system is actually able to search for a parking spot and perfectly park itself according to the Tesla webpage. Finally, the article did not address the constant software updates Tesla makes towards its autopilot system.  Each time they make an advancement in the technology, the software automatically updates in the car, also according to the Tesla webpage.  As a user, it is good to know that Tesla is constantly making improvements to better the system.  Although the autopilot system is very advanced, Tesla admits they still have much to work on.



  1. I think you make very interesting points about your article. For example, the fact the passengers are still not fully comfortable with the autopilot feature is something I could envision. I have never had the experience of driving in a car with autopilot but I feel like I would be nervous watching the car brake and move without me having to do anything. I also agree with some of your skepticisms in your last paragraph. I think it is interesting that the article didn’t address the possibility of inclement weather conditions. When it gets to the winter season, like we are in now, drivers of Tesla’s need to know if the autopilot systems will still be functioning safely if they are driving in ice or snow or rain. I was also surprised that the article doesn’t mention parking as a feature of the autopilot. One reason for this may be that they are not ready to advertise the parking feature until they are fully confident that they will have a perfect success rate. Parking is definitely something that humans can have problems with, I can’t even imagine having a car do it for me. That would make me a little uneasy. Overall, I think some of the things that Tesla is doing to change the world are incredible and this new feature to their cars of autopilot is just and example of how far they have come as a company.

  2. Matthew and Rich, I agree with you both, the autopilot function on this vehicle seems years before it's time. One passed test of autopilot road driver is a huge break through, however, I think for autopilot to actual be legal for road access the tests need to be flawless. I imagine this taking years to accomplish. It is definitely fascinating to see this technology succeeding at this time but I do not see it being a common thing on the road for many years to come. I also think that with the Tesla autopilot there is a huge problem with liability at hand. If there were an accident who would be liable, Tesla or the driver? Along with this technology having to be flawless to be able to be ready for the road, I also think this technology would have to go through a lot of legislative research and collaboration. Tesla definitely seems like a company far ahead of it's competitors with technology and it is always interesting to learn more about the innovations they come up with in the news.


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