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Driving a Tesla in the UK, as explained by a foreigner.

I've owned a Tesla Model S in the US for about 4 years, and recently went on a trip in the UK. We rented a Model S through Turo, and had a fantastic host who was kind enough to rent us his car. Specifically, we got Model S 75D. It was a refreshed model and since he had purchased FSD, it was upgraded to HW3 and had MCU2. It was really so close to my car back home, the differences were the lack of a sunroof, and the driver's seat was on the other side.

Firstly, leaving the airport, I immediately had the "where am I sitting in this car" problem, where I tended to put the car into the left side of the lane, instead of the middle. It didn't help that the lanes were so small. A double-tap for AutoPilot, and the car was right there for me, putting itself back in the middle of the road.

We drove over 1300 miles in our 9 days out there, and the car was awesome, in just the way you would expect it to be. Free supercharging was also nice.

There are a few differences with a Tesla out there, and I just wanted to go over them...

Charging.

The Tesla Superchargers are slightly different. The Tesla plug is long gone, and the socket in the back of the Model S is called a "Type 2" connector. I was told by the owner that Tesla had changed this out.

When going to a v2 Supercharger, there are two cables; one with a Type2 connector, and the other with a (UK version) CCS connector. Connecting to a v2 Supercharger was easy.

When going to a v3 Supercharger, there was a warning on the navigation that I would need a CCS adapter (which had been provided by the owner) and was necessary to be used from the CCS only cable to the Type2 socket on the car. The adapter worked easily and even had a locking mechanism.


At a friend's house, I wanted to top off the Tesla (they owned a Model3) and I was surprised by the fact that their home charger (connector?) did not have a cable. Again, the owner of the Model S had provided a charging cable that had a Type2 connector at both ends. First time that I have run into a charger that did not have a cable coming out of it.

During our travels we stuck almost exclusively to Tesla Superchargers, although we did use a few others. In Rugby, the Tesla Supercharger (16 stalls) had a Starlink terminal above it (very cool) and another 16 non Telsa chargers right next to it (both CCS and ChadeMo.) We also managed to find (and use) the smallest supercharger that simply had 2 stalls.

In Scotland we used a public charger at the Falkirk Wheel, and again had to use our own cable. The charger worked and we got to see the wheel in motion. At another location in Scotland, we tried to use the charger, and were unable to get it to provide power (despite a phone call to tech support.) They said the charger had been used the day before with no issues, but all I got was a flashing red error light on the Telsa Type2 connector port.

Overall the charging in the UK seemed to be slower. I'm not sure if that's because of the 75D has fewer cells than my 100D back home, or just the systems are slower. The v2 chargers were listed on the map as 130kW and not 150kW like at home. I rarely saw over 100kW while charging.


AutoPilot.

Driving in the UK was awesome. The roads were smaller, they were never straight, and they had so many roundabouts. Roundabouts are a huge thing in the UK, and there are roundabouts instead of stop signs at 3-way intersections, and roundabouts instead of traffic lights at 4-way intersections and huge roundabouts to get on and off the motorways (freeways.)

Roundabounds were an issue for the navigation system. The problem was that some roundabouts would sometimes have an "exit" that was little more than an entrance gate to the farmer's field, and it was a running joke that "take the third exit" could also mean the 2nd or 4th exit. As you get on a roundabout, the navigation system (in front of the driver) would show you the map of the roundabout - but it would often disappear before the exit was taken, leaving you stranded on the roundabout with no idea which exit was yours.

Navigation waypoints were a similar issue to roundabout navigation. We would be on a route, and told to stop at the supercharger, and sure, it would get us to the correct car park (satellite view is awesome for finding the supercharger in car parks) - but before we actually got to the supercharger the navigation would assume we were on our way, and show use the route out of the car park and onto the next location. We often found ourselves scrambling to zoom into the MCU map to find how to get to the supercharger at the other end of the carpark.


Speed Limits and Signs.

First of all, let's talk about UK speed limits. The motorway has a 70mph speed limit, and they have traffic cameras everywhere to enforce this stuff. There are also "variable speed limits" where they may dynamically change the speed limit on the motorway from 70 to 60 to 50mph to help deal with traffic. We also ran into pollution speed limits where they changed the speed limit from 70 to 60 to help reduce pollution (according to the signs) - which was ironic when driving the Tesla, but hey.

The problem with the Tesla and the speedlimits is that the Tesla AutoPilot (Traffic Aware Cruise Control) always wants to change your speed in 5mph increments. So going from a 70mph to a 40mph zone was 6 taps of the AP stalk, which was frankly a pain. The UK does not have 25, 35, 45mph limits, so it would be great if Tesla would give an option for 10mph changes on the AP stalk, and not just 5mph changes.

The AP system was great with speed limit signs, and was really good about noticing that the last sign changed the speed on the motorway from 70mph to 60mph and adjusting the speed limit in the car accordingly - however there were some issues...

The UK has this great system of "count down markers" that really remind me of racetracks. There is a 300, 200 and 100 yard countdown to motorway exits, with signs with III and then II and then I on them before the start of the exit. Similar signs were used in villages to show when the speedlimit was about to change, so you could be driving though a village in a 30mph zone, and would get "countdown warnings" about the impending 20mph zone. Unfortunately, the AP would see the "20mph in 300 feet" warning as a "20mph zone" sign, and immediately change the speed limit in the car. This resulted in many audio warnings about breaking the speed limit, when we were not. In the US, we get "35 zone ahead" signs, that the car interprets correctly, it would be nice if the UK signs could also be interpreted correctly.

Another issue was truck-speed signs. We were on this road in the Scottish highlands (so beautiful) and were on a 60mph road (kinda like a US highway.) There were signs for trucks 7.5 tons and higher to have a speedlimit of 50mph.
This resulted in the AP stating that the speedlimit was 50mph and refusing to drive on autopilot with autosteer above 50mph. This made this part of the trip so much harder to drive, and was frankly annoying. In the US we get "55 Truck" speed limit signs on the freeways, even though the car speed limits are still 65mph, and the AP ignores them. The AP system needs to learn to interpret these signs in the UK.

Overall, driving the Tesla in the UK was a great experience. It was great to drive a familiar car in different conditions, and I would certainly recommend this approach to any other Tesla owners out there.
Nice post Nick, thanks for taking the time and effort to share your experience. 👍
 
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When I recently went to the US Hertz gave me a Dodge Challenger.. sadly I couldn't get a Tesla due to having different start/finish locations.

I struggled with:
1) The performance, it was all noise and no action.
2) Forgetting about the parking brake.
3) Forgetting to lock the doors.
4) Lack of visibility out of the letterbox windscreen.
Etc etc

As for driving in the US:
1) lack of speed cameras.
2) Awesome parking space size.
3) Wide lanes.
4) Straight roads.
5) Driving in your cities is so easy (LA, San Fran, San Diego)
6) Mixed feelings about lane discipline and passing in the inside. Not really a big deal.

All in all you can tell the automobile is king!
 
When I recently went to the US Hertz gave me a Dodge Challenger.. sadly I couldn't get a Tesla due to having different start/finish locations.

As for driving in the US:
1) lack of speed cameras.
2) Awesome parking space size.
3) Wide lanes.
4) Straight roads.
5) Driving in your cities is so easy (LA, San Fran, San Diego)
6) Mixed feelings about lane discipline and passing in the inside. Not really a big deal.

All in all you can tell the automobile is king!
And yet a 50% higher death rate. Maybe 6 is to blame

Some blame the UNECE regulations for our restrictions but maybe they just save us from ourselves.
 
I drove a 5l mustang (hire car with 2000 miiles on the odomoter) from San Diego to San Francisco stopping at a few locations on route. While it was a pretty car on the outside, the inside felt cheap and everything rattled. When you planted the accelerator it made lots of noise, everything rattled even more but it did not really go anywhere. The surface of the roads was no better than the UK's, from someone that drives allot in Cornwall, Wales, Cambridge and London. I drove to Amsterdam through France and Belgium recently and the EU's road surface on the roads I used was better than the US / UK. On a side note, I ended up spending more money on fuel in the US than the UK, they don't seem to care that much about fuel consumption.
 
Thanks for the replies everyone...

I think the long-press for autopilot speedmatch is a Model 3/Y thing, as the model S/X have a dedicated AP stalk.
An additional thing that works out here on Model 3/Y is that if you tap on the speedlimit on the screen, it will set the AP speed to that speed.

Interestingly, the Model S owner in the UK was kind enough to grant me permission to his car through the app - ie, add me as an additional driver. I got the invite, but when I clicked on the link it basically said that my USA based account was incompatible with this feature. As a result, I never got to use the app in the UK (but it was a very generous offer by the owner.)

I found that the AutoPilot was fairly confident steering in most situations. I found that on the motorway, if I asked for a lane change, I had to relax my grip in the steering wheel, or it would not change. It was fairly good on all roads with road markings for keeping in lanes. A-Roads, and B-Roads were generally not an issue, and I don't think I tried it on single-lane country lanes.

Overall I found that the confidence on the system was very similar to what I would expect in the US.
I found AutoSteer was very useful on many roads to assist me in putting the car in the middle of the lane.
The truck speed limit signs (yes, Scotland) were annoying, and are certainly deal with correctly in the US (we have TRUCK 55 signs.)
First up, great post Nick. I’ve driven a lot in the States but not since going to Tesla a few years ago. Great to read the flip version of what I’d probably experience there now.

Regarding the pressing of the stalk for matching the interpreted speed limit, on the S and X in the UK, a pull and hold of the AP stalk towards the driver does the same. We have a 3 and an S and I always completely forget this on the 3 when I switch but doing the ‘pull towards and hold’ on the S is like second nature to me since I read it somewhere. Apols if you already knew this.
 
And yet a 50% higher death rate. Maybe 6 is to blame

Some blame the UNECE regulations for our restrictions but maybe they just save us from ourselves.
FWIW passing on the inside is not that unusual in Australia and people there somehow manage. It's also not illegal here although if you're specifically manouvering to undertake then you might get done for it. British drivers are mostly awful from what I've seen, terrible lane discipline, can't follow speed limits, overly aggressive driving, never signalling, act like they're the only ones on the road, etc. Maybe it's just an Edinburgh thing.

I'd say the death rates are lower because we mostly live in high density cities where you can barely get to 20mph. If we had massive networks of freeways, nice wide roads and genuine city bypasses like the US we'd probably be putting up similar numbers.
 
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British drivers are mostly awful from what I've seen, terrible lane discipline, can't follow speed limits, overly aggressive driving, never signalling, act like they're the only ones on the road, etc. Maybe it's just an Edinburgh thing.
As a Brit, I'd +1 this, especially after having done a couple of road trips across Europe. I really wish there was a public education campaign to remind people how overtaking on motorways is supposed to work.

Also - good luck getting your MYLR, that's quite the history of EDD revisions in your signature!
 
Being a Brit living in the US (for the last 4 years but alas due to return next year) and owning a MY and Ioniq 5 I can say that the best thing in term of driving the tesla is the supercharger network. It makes road trips so much better admittedly you don't have them every 50 meters like you do the gas stations but it makes road trips a lot easier. The electrifiy America network on the other hand is a bit more hit and miss in terms of reliability which is why I won't take the i5 on road trips.

As for general driving. I find it more relaxing driving in the UK, yes there is issues with Lane discipline in the UK however it is lightyears away from the drivers in Cali or Nevada you literally need eyes all around you (even with the tesla cameras on lol)

The wide roads are good especially as its pretty much dual lane everywhere (I'm based in Las Vegas so can't comment on other states middle or east) and as commented above loads of parking. They don't seem to grasp the idea of letting you in when your coming down a slip road instead they close the gap (maybe I'm too polite and no one does that anymore lol)
 
I concluded a few years ago that in the UK drivers are generally pretty good with lane discipline when we have three lane motorways and on the continent they are almost impeccable when there are two.

Add an extra lane or two and discipline goes out the window - M25 in places can have two empty lanes on the inside at busy times. In France I notice that UK cars are good on the less typical 3 lane autoroutes but the middle lane contains lots of FR,BE and NL cars never returning to the right lane. Are drivers just happy there is at least one overtaking lane available to other drivers so become lazy🤷‍♂️?

I don’t use Autopilot too much as I find it discourages me from changing lanes.
 
I don't think British drivers are bad exactly, it's mostly laziness and lack of consideration. Motorway driving (the few we actually have in Scotland) is actually pretty good. Driving around here in the sprawl of Edinburgh you'll generally have people cutting across you in roundabouts (because they're in the wrong lane) and dangerously cutting corners, people either driving too slow or too fast, pulling out in front of you, driving too much in the middle of the road, not giving way when there are cars on their side, driving right up your arse even though there's three cars in front of you, etc. I think people do know better but they choose to make exceptions for themselves because they're in a rush, or they're flustered or it's simply easier to drive straight instead of follow the curve of the road, it's easier not to slow down fully to take a turn at correct speed, it's easier not to take your hand off the stick and indicate, etc. It has definitely gotten a lot worse since the pandemic. Conditions of the roads and general congestion and awful parking don't help but I think most people here need to take a really deep, calming breath before getting in their cars and maybe try leaving five minutes earlier. I basically don't drive into Edinburgh proper because it's madness and the public transport isn't as bad. I could probably solo run one of those dashcam channels just from my own recordings.

General standard of drivers in eg. Australia isn't that great either but you are heavily policed there - it was not unusual to spot unmarked police cars on most of my trips, and there are red light and speed cameras everywhere so you'll find people generally follow the rules better and are more predictable. YMMV. Roads are also a billion times nicer and the cities are generally better though out. Driving on eg. the Southern Expressway you'll find loads of people driving like morons and overtaking going on in all the wrong lanes but then on the South Eastern Freeway/Princes Highway people drive pretty well.

USA is a weird one, mostly did highway driving there to be fair which I always found great. Maybe less skillful in general (probably because they're not used to driving very tight roads and through tiny gaps between cars parked on both sides of an ancient laneway) but mostly fairly courteous and OK enough, but that's only from driving NY, VT, MA and thereabouts. I've also driven in Canada which is very similar to the USA, although there's far more speeding and nobody ever indicates - that may just be Quebec though.
 
FWIW passing on the inside is not that unusual in Australia and people there somehow manage. It's also not illegal here although if you're specifically manouvering to undertake then you might get done for it. British drivers are mostly awful from what I've seen, terrible lane discipline, can't follow speed limits, overly aggressive driving, never signalling, act like they're the only ones on the road, etc. Maybe it's just an Edinburgh thing.

I'd say the death rates are lower because we mostly live in high density cities where you can barely get to 20mph. If we had massive networks of freeways, nice wide roads and genuine city bypasses like the US we'd probably be putting up similar numbers.
I don't actually think undertaking, passing on the left is a cause, the figures I've seen more recently show US death rates are 4x higher than uk. I don't think you can put it down to our road types limiting speed, our safest roads by far are motorways and dual carriageways, the type of roads you seem to be suggesting are the cause in the US. Our worst type of road is country roads, 2 way, bends with poor visibility, tractors, pedestrians and not always room for 2 cars to pass easily, and that type of road is less common in the US. Maybe, just maybe, our regulations, law enforcement, and culture play a part. And our regulations include the ones we're talking about.

Tesla's FSD can be twice as safe as the US centric view Musk has, but that's still half as safe as the UK roads if 4x is the current ratio (I'd have to go looking for the source of that number but I think it was a medical research piece). And who wants to be "Average"?
 
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Adopado

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Aug 19, 2019
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This is where it's really important to understand the metrics. I'm sure they are safest by accidents recorded per 1000 people per hour, but in comparison there is little traffic tootling around the back roads of Cornwall.

It turns out that you are quite wrong! Country roads are much more dangerous than motorways:
 

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