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A flight instructor teaches Tesla Autopilot

Discussion in 'Model S: User Interface' started by Papafox, Oct 25, 2015.

  1. Boatguy

    Boatguy Member

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    Regarding TACC, I've had it for the last two years in my BMW i3 and it's fantastic. I find it's especially useful in congested traffic situations, but freeway and local traffic. Combined with the collision avoidance system I can move my attention to something else with confidence that I'm not going to rear-end the car ahead of me.
     
  2. Boatguy

    Boatguy Member

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    I took delivery last Monday of my S90D and drove home using AP part of the trip with no issues. Today was the first time I could do some serious road miles and drove about 200 wonderful miles today through the Sonoma wine country. Unfortunately the first time I used AutoSteer on the freeway, after 1-2 minutes the car was heading dangerously close to a vehicle on my right front side so I aborted. Now I'm trying to figure out if it's pilot error or factory error. During our test drive my wife went down the freeway at 85 with AS while chatting to the salesman and it worked perfectly though curves, hills, etc. so my expectations were high.

    I then noticed that the vehicles on the dash always disappear when they get to my front fenders (or appear if they are coming from behind). I don't have enough time on the AP yet to be confident about what it should do so I didn't use it the rest of the day (though lots of TACC usage). The documentation and even the web are pretty short of pictures.

    Does the display show vehicles on either side, and ahead, or just ahead? It appeared as though only vehicles visible by the front radar were on the screen as they disappear/appear at my front fenders.

    If it only shows vehicles ahead, how can it be confident about lane changes? Yes, I've read the posts about cars fast approaching from astern (seems like a rear radar would have been a good idea and will probably be introduced in the future).

    AS seemed to like to hug the right side a little more than than I liked, is that normal? Does AS learn anew on each vehicle (seems unlikely), or just adapt quickly to each situation?

    Basically I'm trying to rebuild my confidence in it after being rattled this morning.
     
  3. garygid

    garygid Member

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    Like many others, your expectations were substantially too high, and it is good that you are still safe, with just a wakeup scare. Going 85 in narrow lanes a construction zone with lots of high speed truck traffic while painting your toe nails ... is definitely not recommended.

    The extra cars displayed "up front" are generally detected by the front camera, and possibly the radar, and neither can see anything to the side of the car. So, for the most part, those "extra" cars are only quite noticably ahead of your car.

    Safety in handling both speed and steering during merging and in lane changing are totally your responsibility. The AS will try to help with lane changing, but the sensors are only able to detect very nearby vehicles, not nearly enough to insure safe lane changing.

    The TACC and AS do not appear to have sufficient capabilities or programming to handle traffic merging from the side, so best for you to resume total control in the merging-traffic situation. Left in TACC mode, the car can speed up or slow down at just the wrong moment, as if you are actively trying to block another car which is trying to merge. If possible, travel at least one lane in from the merging lane of the freeway or highway.

    AS is really an SA, or Steering Assist, that is still in Beta development. It is NOT hands-off Automatic Steering, even though some claim that it SHOULD be. When you use AS as an aid, keep both hands on the steering wheel, ready to correct the AS at any instant. For safety, be extra vigilant as you learn the situations where AS might have trouble, or get confused. And, be prepared to handle the rare but occasional unexpected situation where the AS gets "confused", even when the car is in a situation that seems totally normal to you. Think of it as an unexpected software crash that could happen at any moment. Sure, if the AS software was operating normally, it would not have swerved into ... whatever, but possibly it was not operating normally, due to some unknown timing glitch.

    But, it is your life, and your car. To me, both are valuable. Tesla has multiple warnings to keep both hands on the wheel, so quite possibly they know something about AP that you do not know. So, from personal experience with AS suddenly "going wacko" just a very few times when there was no apparent reason for the sudden steering lane departure or lack of braking, I STRONGLY recommend being alert, and keep both hands on the steering wheel to be able to feel the small movements of the steering wheel, to be able to sense trouble early and take control instantly when the AS has some unexpected difficulty.

    Perhaps it is better to think of AS as a young child sitting in your lap trying to steer. You should keep your hands on the wheel to feel everying that the child is trying to do, being ready to resist and correct any poor choices. How are you trained to react when another vehicle tries to cut you off, or actually crash into you?

    In an exit-only lane, where the lane angles away from the highway, typically with a painted triangle, the AS seems to be confused by the angle, expecting to deal with steering through highway curves perhaps, and the AS has been observed (4 times by me) to drive into the triangle, toward the crash barrels.

    What software revision does your car have, possibly 2.16.17?

    Look on the popup screen that appears when you touch the Tesla icon at the top center of the 17" touchscreen. The odometer might also be there. Please go safely, and enjoy your rather heavy new car.
     
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  4. Boatguy

    Boatguy Member

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    Yes, 2.16.17.
     
  5. msnow

    msnow Active Member

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  6. Papafox

    Papafox Active Member

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    Boatguy, congratulations on the arrival of your S 90D. With such a beautiful vehicle, you are wise to start off slow with AutoSteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control (TACC). In time you will develop a good feel for the characteristics of each of these tools and then you will be able to use them with confidence (while maintaining the suitable level of vigilance for the present conditions).

    As I have mentioned before, I regard the autopilot system as being like a rather low-experience copilot you're flying with. You're the captain and it is always your responsibility to ensure a safe arrival at Point B. You do keep your hands on the wheel because you are always ready to take over. Gradually, you learn the conditions in which the copilot can perform with confidence. You will discover that this kid's performance is greatly impacted by the quality of the highway markings. New paint on a dark asphalt generally means great performance. Faded paint, construction zones, wet roads, steeper curves, and white bumps instead of painted lines generally means degraded performance. Like I said, in time you will be able to read the road and better understand when the autosteer will be right on and when it will be less reliable.

    Since your copilot (autopilot) is constantly getting better, you realize it'll be captain-qualified in a few years. Moreover, you realize there are things your autopilot can do better than you right now. For example, I find the TACC can better detect changes of speed for the car in front of me than I can, and it correspondingly does a quicker job of adjusting speed so that not only am I less likely to get close to the guy in front of me, but my speed changes are more gentle and I am less likely to be hit by the car behind me.

    While gaining your experience with autopilot, consider getting a feel for Traffic Aware Cruise Control first and then moving onto the combination of TACC and AutoSteer. As gargid so appropriately stated, sometimes TACC will speed up quicker than you would as a driver, which makes your vehicle a bit more of a surprise to surrounding traffic. Learn the quirks of the speed system first, then move on to exploring autosteer in a bigger way. This way, you're not learning the characteristics of two systems at the same time. I have to tell you, TACC can be absolutely fabulous in heavy traffic or when you're tired, and you'll grow to love it

    As for autosteer, you'll find it actually does better sometimes in heavy traffic because it has more points of reference. Besides the vehicles that get imaged on your dash display, you can see how autosteer is thinking by watching the white, yellow, or red semi-circles that extend from the side sensors of your car's image on the dash. The colors change with the closeness of the obstacle.

    The main reason you want to be treating the vehicle as if it is under your control rather than under the autopilot's sole authority is that if you need to get involved in correcting a situation, you need some situational-awareness in order to respond properly. If you are not paying attention to the surrounding traffic, you won't be able to respond quickly and correctly when a situation presents itself. I will present such a situation in the next post.
     
  7. Papafox

    Papafox Active Member

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    #67 Papafox, Apr 18, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2016
    Elon Musk recently tweeted a video of a Model S being saved from an accident when its autosteer moved the car over to the far side of the lane as a truck merged in from the left. See video here:



    Autosteer is limited to moving to the far side of the lane and then disconnecting itself and giving a "Take over immediately" warning. It is not programmed to swerve into the concrete area beside the road or into another lane to avoid a collision. Fortunately, the driver responded quickly and was able to slow down and keep to the right of the truck until his Tesla's nose was clear of the truck moving into his lane. I think this is both an excellent example of how autopilot can offer some protection from a collision and how you the driver must take over pretty quickly to save the day once the autopilot has reached the limits of its allowed collision avoidance move and it says YOU'VE GOT IT CAPTAIN (but not exactly in those words).
     
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  8. garygid

    garygid Member

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    If the AP software has crashed of frozen, it cannot say "Take over now" or even guarantee to not steer abruptly out of the lane, even with good lane markings, because ... the AP is no longer in sufficient control. These are the unexpected situations.

    Gaining confidence or overconfidence in normal operating conditions does not help deal with these possibly system-failure or subsystem freeze type problems.
     
  9. Boatguy

    Boatguy Member

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    Great posts! I've had Adaptive Cruise Control on my BMW i3 for almost two years so I'm well acquainted with the TACC behavior; it's frankly a better "pilot" especially in stop/go traffic. The AS on the other hand is more as you describe. Thanks!
     
  10. garygid

    garygid Member

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    The TACC has had over a year to evolve, so it has gotten quite good.

    However, TACC still might have one "original" problem, a failure to recognize a (nearly?) stopped car ahead, speeding up to it as if the lane is empty. Has that been fixed, or just reduced ...? I have not experienced it recently, but traffic conditions have not presented that situation recently to my car.

    TACC does not yet anticipate or slow noticably for curves., at least on exit ramps.

    TACC does not recognize, and thus cannot handle, vehicles attampting forced merging, like vehicles entering the freeway. Your car, under TACC speed control, can behave like it is trying to block the merging vehicle.
     
  11. msnow

    msnow Active Member

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    I occasionally still experience that problem. Also, sometimes if a car that is being tracked suddenly leaves the lane it will react by suddenly braking very hard for a couple of seconds.
     
  12. thecloud

    thecloud As rhythm raced inside, the ship came alive

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    Thirded. If the lane I'm in splits into two lanes, and the car ahead of me takes the right lane while I continue straight/left, and I'm about to pass by that car on its left, my car will brake fairly hard before resuming its former speed. Fortunately nobody was following too closely behind me the first few times that happened, and I've learned to keep my foot resting lightly on the accelerator in case I need to quickly maintain speed in that situation.

    Earlier versions of Autopilot would try to take the exit ramp or follow the car into the right lane after the split. The current ones will hold the same lane but seem to be confused about whether the car I was formerly following is still in my lane.
     
  13. Papafox

    Papafox Active Member

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    Thank you all for bringing these issues up. I've been away from my autopilot-equipped Tesla for a couple months but will be taking some long road trips in the coming week with it and will try to duplicate what you're experiencing. The good news is I'm bringing the 70D back to the islands this month and will be able to drive it regularly from here on.
     
  14. Boatguy

    Boatguy Member

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    When using AS on the freeway it is hugging the right side a little too close for my comfort. It's coming too close to cars on that side and in a couple of cases seemed to almost lunge to the right a bit (and not due to off ramps). The car is essentially new. Is there any calibration required for the sensors that was perhaps not correctly performed? I'm very leery of using the AS on the freeway right now whereas in the two test drives I had the AS performed beautifully on the same stretch of freeway.
     
  15. garygid

    garygid Member

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    A joke ... have everybody sit on the port side. :)
     
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  16. Beryl

    Beryl Member

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    Yes. Call Tesla, tell them about the problem, and take it in for calibration. Mine car required it.
     
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  17. Papafox

    Papafox Active Member

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    Boatguy, I have an idea what may be going on. When I began using AutoSteer, my concern was that the right side of my Tesla was coming too close to the traffic in the lane to my right. In time, I figured out the illusion. I discovered that I have always stayed a bit to the left side of a lane when driving manually on a highway because I sat on the left side of the car and could better judge my clearance between the car to my left than with the car to my right.

    Here's how to tell if you too have this bias in your driving. While you're driving manually in moderate traffic, take several glances at how the Tesla displays your position relative to the greyish-black lane markers that are present on your dash when autosteer is off. If you are like me, you will see that you normally favor the left side of the lane. Now put the Tesla on AutoSteer with low to no traffic. Take a look at where the car is positioned in the lane as you go straight, turn left, and turn right. I bet you'll see that AS keeps the Tesla mostly in the center of the lane but favors the inside of turns a bit. If this is the case, then what you will need to do is get comfortable with the car riding in the middle of the lane. I know this might sound crazy to you, but reserve your judgment for now and use the lane markets on the dash to see if you favor the left side when driving manually and see if the Tesla somehow favors the right side when on AutoSteer. Do not use your vision out the windshield to judge, though, use the greyish-black lane markers for judging your manual driving and the blue lane markers for judging your AutoSteer driving. If the Tesla is clearly favoring the right side on AutoSteer, then something is wrong, but you need to judge by a criteria other than looking out the windshield. I bet you are just like me and have grown to favor the left-side of the lane without knowing it.
     
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  18. Boatguy

    Boatguy Member

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    Papafox - That makes excellent sense, and I can accept the idea that when driving I may favor the left side, as do you. But there are a couple of issues with what you suggest.

    First, it assumes the calibration of the AP system is correct, otherwise the AP may think it's centered, and may be telling me it's centered, but it is in fact not centered. Based on comments by another owner, I've asked the SC to calibrate the sensors when I take it in to have the second charger installed.

    More importantly, what if you and I are not the only two drivers that favor the left? What if lots of other drivers also favor the left, and collectively at a point in time all the cars around us favor the left to keep reasonable lateral spacing? I suspect when we drive "manually" our number one priority is to be centered relative to the cars around us to have the largest possible safety buffer, and being centered in the lane is a secondary concern, while the priorities of the AS are first to be centered in the lane, and second to avoid contact.

    There are an enormous number of experience acquired judgements we make when driving that do not translate well into DNNs or AS algorithms. The TACC in both the MS and my BMW i3 have a fit and slow dramatically when someone in a left turn lane is sitting on or even close to the lane line (many drivers swing right before turning left), something that we all recognize and drive past without concern when not using the TACC because we're pretty confident about their real intent. Then of course there is eye to eye communication between drivers from time to time that also informs our decisions, and that's before we get to the local and/or country specific norms. There are lots of other examples/pitfalls where the move from semi-autonomous to autonomous driving is going to be challenged.

    For the moment, I'm going to let the AS rest until I know it's been calibrated again, but I will certainly make the observations you suggest in the meantime.
     
  19. EVie'sDad

    EVie'sDad Member

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    Calibration occurs naturally, only after driving the distance of say 1500 miles (may be less) the car will have enough data to gather a sense of it's surroundings and become more confident in it's ability to judge positioning, but as always, you are the driver, you are responsible, treat both TACC and Enhanced Steering Control (I don't use the word autopilot anymore) as a 12-14 year old child with zero experience on any road, and learn yourself when to take control in situations you feel the vehicle is not up to handling well. Each interrupted Enhanced steering event is logged and data recorded and gathered, so that the fleet can learn from the corrections made and eventually share that info with all the Tesla's in later firmware updates.
     
  20. garygid

    garygid Member

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    EV...Dad,
    Do you know these things to be facts about the current revision 2.17.37 software?
    If so, from what authoritative source, please?

    Or, are these just your thoughts or beliefs derived from reading other people's guesses?
    If so, your "facts" might be incorrect, perhaps?

    Just asking, thanks.
     

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