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Autopilot fatigue reduction on long drives - initial reports?

calisnow

Banned
Oct 11, 2014
2,867
4,650
Los Angeles
I'm *this* close to placing an order for a Model S to replace my 10 year old SUV - for fuel savings and fatigue reduction on my 600 mile r/t drive between So cal and Mammoth (10-14 trips per year).

But my alternative for about the same money as a loaded 85D is buying an old Cessna 182 or Cirrus SR20 to reduce my trip time in half or less - I'm a private pilot but have never owned an airplane. I figure the plane will work for at least 50% of my trips - the other 50% due to inclement weather I'll just take the SUV.

Unfortunately I can't afford to buy both right now - if I get a plane the Tesla will have to wait another 2-3 years.

So what are the initial reports on the effect of autopilot on your fatigue reduction on long trips? Is it significant, given that you still must monitor the systems and be ready to take over at a moment's notice?

My experience with airplane autopilots is that they are a BIG reduction in fatigue vs hand flying the aircraft and leave much more of my mental bandwidth available for monitoring systems and communicating on the radios.

But on the other hand in a small plane if you have a problem with your autopilot you are not a split second away from ramming into a hard object.
 
Last edited:

saladman

Member
Feb 11, 2015
95
1
Seattle, WA
I'm *this* close to placing an order for a Model S to replace my 10 year old SUV - for fuel savings and fatigue reduction on my 300 mile r/t drive between So cal and Mammoth (10-14 trips per year).

But my alternative for about the same money as a loaded 85D is buying an old Cessna 182 or Cirrus SR20 to reduce my trip time in half or less - I'm a private pilot but have never owned an airplane. I figure the plane will work for at least 50% of my trips - the other 50% due to inclement weather I'll just take the SUV.

Unfortunately I can't afford to buy both right now - if I get a plane the Tesla will have to wait another 2-3 years.

So what are the initial reports on the effect of autopilot on your fatigue reduction on long trips? Is it significant, given that you still must monitor the systems and be ready to take over at a moment's notice?

My experience with airplane autopilots is that they are a BIG reduction in fatigue vs hand flying the aircraft and leave much more of my mental bandwidth available for monitoring systems and communicating on the radios.

But on the other hand in a small plane if you have a problem with your autopilot you are not a split second away from ramming into a hard object.

Pilot (IFR) and 85D owner here as well.

The Autopilot makes driving a little less fatiguing, but it's not the same as an aircraft autopilot. You are still monitoring not just all systems, but more importantly all current conditions for split second response. The auto makers also need some time to bring their systems up to par with aircraft. There's no "trim" and no "Emergency Cancel" button.

That being said, the aircraft will do different trips for you. You're not going to have a car when you land somewhere, so hopefully you only need to go to airports.

And a very wise pilot (my father) once said, "If you need to be there, and you need to be there in a hurry, don't take your plane.". There's always something with a plane, mechanical, weather, or personal fatigue, that makes it less than ideal for mission critical travel.


Our choice was to let a plane go, and pick up the car. I miss the plane. I liked the way people were impressed when we would talk about flying somewhere. They aren't so impressed when you mention "I drove my very expensive car...". :). They are different vehicles, with a different purpose.
 

Jool

Member
Jun 26, 2015
285
6
San Diego, CA
I drive two and a half hours out of town every other weekend and can attest to the reduced fatigue from autopilot. You do need to remain alert and ready to handle any road issues, but not having to constantly adjust the wheel made a huge difference for me.
 

DuncanWatson

Member
Apr 3, 2012
284
0
Seattle, WA
...

And a very wise pilot (my father) once said, "If you need to be there, and you need to be there in a hurry, don't take your plane.". There's always something with a plane, mechanical, weather, or personal fatigue, that makes it less than ideal for mission critical travel.


Our choice was to let a plane go, and pick up the car. I miss the plane. I liked the way people were impressed when we would talk about flying somewhere. They aren't so impressed when you mention "I drove my very expensive car...". :). They are different vehicles, with a different purpose.
The car will allow you to do more in the end as long as that doesn't involve travelling to an island. My friend is a part owner of a plane and his issues are always his partners when the insurance renewal and annual come up. He loves his plane but it is his whole lifestyle.
 

e-FTW

New electron smell
Aug 23, 2015
3,263
3,086
San Francisco, CA
My initial impressions are that it does reduce the workload quite a bit. You do not have to be focused on keeping in your lane as much. You are kind of being led and nudged all along. So you can keep your hands on the wheel, but not really do anything with them, and focus on paying attention to other drivers.
And the advanced TACC part of it is great for keeping a set distance from cars in front, and not having to mind your speed. This is especially useful in traffic. I crawled over the hills on the 92 towards Half-Moon Bay yesterday, and it was brilliant in that massive traffic jam. I was able to enjoy the scenery quite a bit, chat with my passengers and overall just monitor progress.

There are reports of people getting tired in the shoulders from "shadowing" the wheel, which is not something I have done, for that exact reason. I keep both hands on the wheel like normal, but let the car do its thing. Or go with one hand using an armrest.

One other aspect that is not covered as much: this thing is really good in low-visibility (fog) and at night. These conditions can be really draining on a driver, and AP allows for a much easier time. You should still scale the speed back in case you need to take over, but you will not be as mentally drained after a long drive in those types of conditions.

In the end, I find myself being more relaxed at the wheel. I probably re-use some of the awareness energy on anticipating other drivers' moves, and spots where the AP might get confused by lane markings. But overall, I am less tired at the end of the day.
 

Nigel16494

Member
Nov 22, 2014
85
1
N/A
TACC is the big benefit on long journeys I suspect. I used it for thousands of miles. Today I had autopilot running and the car veered off suddenly, I suspect the striping on the road confused it. Collision alarm went off as I veered towards the car in the right lane, but I had hold of the wheel anyhow. Autopilot is good but you still have to be 100% there especially at freeway speed with curves. The ready to jump in and take over stress may make some folks just not use it. It's still Beta so more fine tuning to come I expect.
 

loco

Member
Feb 21, 2013
185
448
Poznan, Poland
Buy the airplane.

Imagine hearing an aircraft pass overhead when you're wasting time at a supercharger half way :) Ouch!

Tesla is a nice car, but still it's just that. It moves in two dimensions vs three. Nowhere near the fun of flying.
 

sandpiper

Active Member
Sep 25, 2014
2,833
2,139
Ontario, Canada
I'm *this* close to placing an order for a Model S to replace my 10 year old SUV - for fuel savings and fatigue reduction on my 300 mile r/t drive between So cal and Mammoth (10-14 trips per year).

But my alternative for about the same money as a loaded 85D is buying an old Cessna 182 or Cirrus SR20 to reduce my trip time in half or less - I'm a private pilot but have never owned an airplane. I figure the plane will work for at least 50% of my trips - the other 50% due to inclement weather I'll just take the SUV.

Unfortunately I can't afford to buy both right now - if I get a plane the Tesla will have to wait another 2-3 years.

So what are the initial reports on the effect of autopilot on your fatigue reduction on long trips? Is it significant, given that you still must monitor the systems and be ready to take over at a moment's notice?

My experience with airplane autopilots is that they are a BIG reduction in fatigue vs hand flying the aircraft and leave much more of my mental bandwidth available for monitoring systems and communicating on the radios.

But on the other hand in a small plane if you have a problem with your autopilot you are not a split second away from ramming into a hard object.

I'm an IFR pilot with a fair bit of experience owning both singles and piston twins. Private aircraft are great fun, but you should never consider them to be a reliable source of scheduled transportation unless you're looking at a pressurized turboprop or better and can commit a lot of time to maintaining currency.

I'm not saying it can't be done. But you should speak to a lot of pilots and understand the very practical limitations of small GA aircraft.
 

danielp

Member
Jul 4, 2014
307
1
Sydney, Australia
Since December my Model S has replaced 44 180 mile flights (as a passenger).

While I can't compare to piloting the plane, I will say I definitely prefer it to flying (I fly a lot) - with TACC and now auto steer I find a lot less wear and tear, and some great personal time to listen to some music and enjoy the view.

I've done one round trip (360 miles) with auto steer and it is simply amazing. You have to still pay attention, but TACC combined with auto steer really does let you relax more. It is a weird sensation when you need to pick up the wheel again.
 

donv

Member
Jul 15, 2013
599
47
Lake Jeanclia, OR
SoCal - Mammoth? I'd go for the airplane, myself. And I'm an ATP as well. If you're instrument rated, you should be able to make it most of the time without any issues. And it's a lot of time saved.

I would try to find a turbocharged airplane for that trip, though.
 

calisnow

Banned
Oct 11, 2014
2,867
4,650
Los Angeles
I'm an IFR pilot with a fair bit of experience owning both singles and piston twins. Private aircraft are great fun, but you should never consider them to be a reliable source of scheduled transportation unless you're looking at a pressurized turboprop or better and can commit a lot of time to maintaining currency.

I'm not saying it can't be done. But you should speak to a lot of pilots and understand the very practical limitations of small GA aircraft.

Oh yes definitely - I understand that for sure. My trips to Mammoth are not time sensitive - returning to So Cal one - or several - days late is not a problem. I intend to live to be an old pilot - definitely not a bold pilot here.
 

Footbag

Member
Jun 29, 2013
527
152
Edmonton, Canada
TACC is the big benefit on long journeys I suspect. I used it for thousands of miles. Today I had autopilot running and the car veered off suddenly, I suspect the striping on the road confused it. Collision alarm went off as I veered towards the car in the right lane, but I had hold of the wheel anyhow. Autopilot is good but you still have to be 100% there especially at freeway speed with curves. The ready to jump in and take over stress may make some folks just not use it. It's still Beta so more fine tuning to come I expect.

I did a near 200 mile trip yesterday. This particular road was lightly used, with a number of curves, but also many straightaways. On the curves, yep 100% focus. However, on the straights, I would scan the road coming up (intersections, other traffic, road markings), and could then 'rest' for a good while (~30 seconds or more), at which point I would repeat the scanning exercise (or give extra focus, ie if getting into an intersection or other situation that required such). To be clear, by resting I mean listening a bit more to the music, enjoying the scenery, and letting the body do just that, rest, until the next 'scanning interval'. When the car is on the straights, and markings are good, not a lot seems to go wrong. On the highways I was on, cars can't pop out of nowhere (animals on the other hand...). I found it a much more relaxing experience.
 

Owner

Active Member
Dec 20, 2012
1,532
322
San Francisco Bay Area
I find this thread fascinating. On long trips I'm already on auto-pilot (without the software). Takes very little brain function to drive. I'm fascinated that others are reporting the opposite.

Perhaps this might not be true in heavier traffic.
 

Brit4864

Member
May 5, 2013
340
2
South Florida
Get the Tesla. Owning and operating a even a small airplane (especially a piston) gets VERY expensive over the years. I fly for a living (Cessna Caravan) and I know just how much these things cost to maintain and operate. Not being IFR rated also limits its usefulness anyway. With the Tesla you'll always arrive and have local ground transportation. As the old saying goes "How do you make a small fortune in aviation? Start with a large one!" :biggrin:
 

LargeHamCollider

Battery cells != scalable
Jan 10, 2015
944
1,749
United States
If you go with the aircraft set personal minimums and fly safe, an owner-flown GA aircraft is about 20x as likely to kill you as a car, this from a pilot with ~4,000 hrs GA.
 

fly182t

New Member
Oct 19, 2015
1
0
Buena Park, CA
IFR Rated pilot and new 85D owner and former owner of a Cessna T182T here also.


As @saladman stated, the car autopilot and plane are different. In a plane, it was mental fatigue that autopilot helps me. We took our plane cross country several times, flying 6 to 8 hours in a day. In the plane, AP allowed me to focus more on ATC communications, weather, fuel, my approach to my destination, re-routes, etc. Those thing you don't have in a car. In the car, AP does allow me to focus on other traffic, the lane changer behind me, motorcycle splitting lanes, etc. For me, the later is just not as much of a mental fatigue.


On the plane ownership... The plane is the cheap part, also factor in...


1. Taxes. In California, you'll have property tax to pay. On a $135,000 plane, about $1400 annually (my 2008 Cessna was valued at $350k and I was paying about $3500).
2. Insurance. You'll have this in a car too, but plane is 2x to 3x plus it is paid annually not monthly.
3. Hanger or Tie-down. Hanger at KFUL was about $850 and Tie-Downs are about $350 monthly
4. Annual Inspection. Unlike Tesla, FAA makes these mandatory. ASSUMING no parts need replacing, figure $2500-$3500. Then every 5-10 years you have prop overhaul. I was looking at a $4000 bill in 2016 for that.
5. Oil. 9 quarts and filter every 50 hours for a change. 1 quart top off every 4 hrs or so.
6. Fuel. From KSMO to KMMH is about 2 hours. At 14 gal per hr = 28 gallons X $5.00 = $140 each way.


Also like @saladman, I REALLY hated giving up my plane. It was fun popping up to Napa or Vegas and saying "I flew myself here", but the cost for flying 8-10 hours on average per month didn't make sense fro us any more. The Tesla has fulfilled the things I loved about flying. Trip planning, now is to Super Chargers instead of fuel in the middle of "no where". I had a G1000, so the tech in the Tesla speaks to the that part of me. Best part is I get to "fly" my Tesla every day now.


I've made the trip from Orange County up 395 to Bridgeport (pre-Tesla) several times now and it's not that bad in a car. The first time because weather was bad and couldn't fly, now just becuase we like that drive. Mammoth will soon have a Super Charger, so you'll be golden.

But then again, It sure is nice at 12,000 feet looking down at all that traffic :)
 

bishop1847

Member
Mar 21, 2015
30
7
Chesapeake, VA
I just wrapped up a 2,000 mile road trip, almost all of which was spent autopiloting down I-95 from Virginia to South Florida and back.

SIGNIFICANT reduction of fatigue. I could actually function after being in the car 8+ hours in a day. There's a good degree of cognitive overload that happens when you're driving a car - even if you're just mindlessly steering down the road with cruise-control on. AP reduces that overload, and in a big, noticeable way.

Granted, you shouldn't (I didn't) totally zone own while barreling down the interstate. But I was able to enjoy a few podcasts and an audiobook and relax a bit on a long drive, and here I am - a few hours after getting home - and I feel like it's the end of just any average day.
 

slevit1md

Member
Jun 22, 2015
295
175
Oregon
Not being a pilot (yet), I can't speak much to that. However, I would say that auto pilot has provided a pretty significant decrease in fatigue. On highways, I stay in the middle or left lane and haven't found it necessary to hold the wheel, although I do obviously stay alert and I'm ready to take over at any time. I found that for this type of driving, the autopilot does a surprisingly great job with minimal driver input. It might not seem like much, but just sitting behind the wheel, watching things happen, while the car takes care of everything else really does make things a lot easier. I have always thought that TACC alone reduced fatigue and stress, but the addition of auto steer has probably more than doubled the effect.

As fun as the car is to drive, I have never been a fan of highway driving for any significant distance; I find it painfully boring. While I still don't love long distances, the autopilot makes it nearly effortless and certainly makes things more tolerable.

For 10-14 trips per year, I'd go with the Tesla. It will make the drive much better than what you're currently doing and you'll also wind up with a fantastic every-day vehicle that is far more practical than the plane for most situations. I plan on getting my pilots license within the year, but wouldn't dream of giving up my Tesla for a plane that I'd use once a month or so.
 

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