- Tesla driver Tim Heckman covered 6,392 miles mostly using Autopilot and full self-driving.
- He said the autopilot had gotten “worse” over the years and the FSD was “exceptionally poor outside of California.”
- But, the Tesla driver said the software had been a “lifesaver” when it came to long road trips.
A Tesla owner took a 6,392-mile road trip using mostly Tesla Autopilot and Full Self-Driving (FSD) – and said while the software was a “lifesaver”, there were a few missed along the way.
In December, Tim Heckman drove a Model S Plaid from Los Angeles to Pennsylvania and back, using the standalone software for 99% of the trip, an experience he documented. on Twitter.
Heckman, a reliability engineer at the site, told Insider that while the standalone software proved helpful during its journey, it also resulted in “stressful driving” at times, detailing incidents where the tech ghost braked and had trouble staying within the speed limit, following correct distances, or staying in his lane.
The advantages and disadvantages of autonomous driving
While Autopilot is driver assistance software built into all Teslas and designed for highway driving, FSD is a beta add-on that can work in urban environments and is designed to change lanes, recognize road signs stops and lights, as well as parking. .
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the software will eventually be able to run entirely on its own and be safer than human drivers, but the beta program still requires a licensed driver to monitor it at all times.
Heckman told Insider that the software sometimes registers cars on the screen that aren’t there or has trouble identifying lane markings when there’s salt on the road.
“It’s kind of like driving with a 15- or 16-year-old driver sometimes,” Heckman said of using FSD on city streets outside of California. “There are some weird jerky maneuvers. He’ll stop or enter a cornering lane too soon. In a way, there’s just a general lack of environmental awareness.”
On the other hand, the Tesla owner said the Autopilot was a “lifesaver” on the highways, adding that if he had to disengage the FSD software many times, the Autopilot only disengaged. only once when a car ahead of him on the freeway slammed into his brakes.
“It can be a huge cognitive relief. Long drives can take a mental toll,” Heckman said, noting that he’s used Autopilot on previous car trips and found he can drive further without getting tired. .
The software has also helped him avoid collisions on the highway in the past.
“I find that I sometimes tune out when I’m driving,” Heckman said. [software] can increase that, but I know that if I disconnect, at least I know the vehicle is supporting me.”
Become ‘worse’, not better
In his Twitter feed about the experience, Heckman wrote that Autopilot was “worse” than when he bought his first Tesla in 2019 and that FSD was “exceptionally poor outside of California.”
Hedges & Company, a digital marketing firm for automakers, found in an analysis of more than 175 million car owners in 2019 that the majority of Tesla owners live in California, meaning the AI software might have more opportunities to learn California roads.
Ultimately, Heckman said he doesn’t see himself buying an electric car other than Tesla — at least not until charging networks catch up with Tesla — but he wants the automaker to rely on LiDAR, Radar sensors that can help vehicles detect nearby objects.
Musk has spoken out against expensive hardware in the past and reportedly demanded cameras over radar because he wants standalone software to work like human eyes. The automaker stopped installing LiDAR in its cars in 2021.
Heckman isn’t the first person to detail issues with Tesla’s Autopilot or FSD add-on. Many FSD testers have posted videos showing bugs in the software. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Autopilot and its potential link to several crashes.
“At the end of the day, I think this stuff has huge potential,” Heckman said. wrote on Twitter. “But at this stage there needs to be focus and good execution, without causing regressions in the experience, especially on features that impact your safety and the safety of others on the road.”
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