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Rant about AutoPilot and "hands on the wheel"

kirkbauer

Member
May 31, 2015
623
242
Atlanta, GA
Caveat: I'm a huge Tesla fan, and I have owned a P85D for 3 years now and love it. I also love AutoPilot and use it all the time. I think Tesla provides ample warning about driver responsibility when you enable the feature and I can't stand when people blame the car for their own mistakes.

With that being said, I find that "holding the steering wheel" is a horrible proxy for "paying attention", yet when Tesla posts information about crashes while on AutoPilot, they really seem to focus on how much the person was or wasn't holding the steering wheel. I just find that useless and misleading.

First of all, it is trivial to hold the steering wheel while not paying any attention. You could even be accidentally asleep and holding on to the steering wheel.

Secondly, at least for me, the most comfortable position for me to hold on to the steering wheel when I'm not driving is a loose bottom grip with one hand. But for taking over control from AP I prefer to use the standard "10 and 2" grips. When AP forces me to passively hold on to my steering wheel, in effect it just puts me at a slower response time for the grip I use when taking over. In other words, in my case, I'm confident that I'd be better off NOT holding the steering wheel, and simply being ready to take over.

Finally, Tesla also likes to talk about how many times people were visually and audibly alerted to put their hands on the wheel. Again, I think this is used to show that the driver wasn't paying attention. However, as I said above, in my case I'm more comfortable watching the road with my hands *off* the wheel, ready to grab at 10 and 2. So I get alerted to hold the wheel and I jiggle it and resume what I'm comfortable with. Most importantly, I almost *never* see the "hold the wheel" indicators... because I'm watching the road!

Basically, as a veteran AutoPilot user, I watch the road very carefully and I'm ready to take over the wheel in the 10-and-2 hand positions very quickly and when I do I can make significant adjustments to the steering. I think I'm an extremely safe and competent AutoPilot user for these reasons.

However, if I ever get into an accident, the Tesla report will go something like: "Driver had his hands off of the steering wheel for 45 of the 60 seconds before the accident. Driver receive 6 visual and 4 audible alerts to hold the steering wheel in the 5 minutes prior to the accident." I think that will completely misrepresent the level of care I take when using AP.
 

Krugerrand

Enough of the 🐩, back to 🐈‍⬛
Jul 13, 2012
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Tesla friendly place
It’s not about what you’re most comfortable with when driving on AP. It’s about continuing to pay attention and being fully responsible when driving on AP and that requires hands on wheel in a manner that allows you to take over as quickly as your inate reactionary timing allows as if you weren’t on AP. To do otherwise is irresponsible and putting yourself and others at greater risk for injury and death.

Keep using the system wrong as others are and you’ll force Tesla’s hand to do something that irritates you significantly more. It could even cause Tesla to temporarily disable AP for all of us because of lawsuits and NHTSA pressure etc...

And for the record, not for one second do I believe you having hands completely off the wheel allows you to react quicker or better than at least having one hand in contact at all times.
 

kirkbauer

Member
May 31, 2015
623
242
Atlanta, GA
We can agree to disagree, but if I have to take my hand off of the wheel and then grab it in the correct position, that is going to take me longer than if my hands are positioned and ready to grab directly. And I guarantee you I'm not the only one that, when forced to hold the wheel, holds in it an sub-optimal position for taking over. I just may be the only one to admit it.

The rest of my points are also valid. I can hold the wheel and close my eyes. Tesla uses "hands on the wheel" as a proxy for "paying attention" which is inappropriate.
 

Uncle Paul

Well-Known Member
Nov 1, 2013
6,299
6,879
Canyon Lake,CA
While everyone has an opinion of how they can game the autopilot, Tesla instructs and admonishes everyone to keep their hands on the wheel when Autopilot is engaged.

If you do not keep your hands on the wheel, ready to take over, you are more responsible for any accidents.
 

Rockster

Active Member
Oct 22, 2013
3,012
4,621
McKinney, TX
If you could somehow know in advance that an emergency situation was about to occur, would you choose to prepare yourself by holding the steering wheel using "a loose bottom grip with one hand"? If not, then why do you think that's the ideal way for you to hold the wheel while on AP?

I'm returning to edit this so that I don't seem hypocritical. I'll admit, there are times I hold the steering wheel with a very similar grip while on AP, but it's only when I'm on the open highway, there are no other cars in the immediate vicinity, and I'm not driving adjacent to any close concrete barriers, guardrails, etc. If I'm near anyone or anything else, I hold the wheel at my normal driving position and actually "steer" where I think the wheel should go, letting AP disengage if my decision overrides the car's decision.

What irks the heck out of me are people who fail to maintain a proper grip on the wheel and full attention when they're in proximity to other cars or other obstacles and then complain about AP when a mishap occurs.

In an ideal world, there wouldn't be any nags whatsoever because people wouldn't be irresponsible. Sadly, we're quite far from being there.
 
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stefan.bc

I see dead headlights!
Jan 14, 2017
174
92
OR
When you test drive a Tesla with AP you are told you can take your hands off the wheel, and in some cases encouraged to do so, then later after you buy the car, pay for AP, you are supposed to always keep your hand on the wheel because that's what it says in the manual?

This was my experience so far, kind of a double standard. Am I seeing this wrong?
 
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Tummy

Member
Dec 25, 2016
224
279
Atlanta
More accurate headlines should be "Driver failed to stop the car from crashing" since in the end, with current technology, it's always the driver's fault. I don't know why that's so hard for people to understand. If you fail to use the brake or steer in time, that's your own fault.
 

Rockster

Active Member
Oct 22, 2013
3,012
4,621
McKinney, TX
When you test drive a Tesla with AP you are told you can take your hands off the wheel, and in some cases encouraged to do so, then later after you buy the car, pay for AP, you are supposed to always keep your hand on the wheel because that's what it says in the manual?

This was my experience so far, kind of a double standard. Am I seeing this wrong?

To this I would say that demonstrating during a test drive that something is possible isn't the same as specifying a best practice.
 
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kirkbauer

Member
May 31, 2015
623
242
Atlanta, GA
If you could somehow know in advance that an emergency situation was about to occur, would you choose to prepare yourself by holding the steering wheel using "a loose bottom grip with one hand"? If not, then why do you think that's the ideal way for you to hold the wheel while on AP?

I'm returning to edit this so that I don't seem hypocritical. I'll admit, there are times I hold the steering wheel with a very similar grip while on AP, but it's only when I'm on the open highway, there are no other cars in the immediate vicinity, and I'm not driving adjacent to any close concrete barriers, guardrails, etc. If I'm near anyone or anything else, I hold the wheel at my normal driving position and actually "steer" where I think the wheel should go, letting AP disengage if my decision overrides the car's decision.

What irks the heck out of me are people who fail to maintain a proper grip on the wheel and full attention when they're in proximity to other cars or other obstacles and then complain about AP when a mishap occurs.

In an ideal world, there wouldn't be any nags whatsoever because people wouldn't be irresponsible. Sadly, we're quite far from being there.

Yes, exactly. Of course if the situation is at all worrisome then both of my hands are on the wheel as usual. But on a 12 hour road trip, you better bet that I'm going to have one loose hand or no hands. Either way I'll be watching the road and ready to take over. The only determination on hand placement is whether or not I'm tired of the nagging. Ideally my hands would be off and ready to take over, but because of the nags I might put one hand on the wheel. Either way it won't impact my attention to the road, other than the fact that the nags tend to distract me from the road here and there.
 

mknox

Well-Known Member
Aug 7, 2012
10,103
1,870
Toronto, ON
I generally keep 2 hands on the wheel in roughly "10 and 2" position and still frequently get the nag. It seems not only do you have to keep your hands on the wheel, but you have to keep tugging at it or the car thinks you've let go.
 
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BinaryField

Member
Sep 21, 2017
296
586
Earth
I've had similar thoughts, having used Tesla's autopilot daily for some six months now. Contrary to prevailing discourse, I don't believe that hanging on to the steering wheel 100% of the time necessarily makes you safer in all situations. Saying so is just a knee-jerk cover-up response to legitimate issues with the system. Example: you are using autopilot on a very wide and well-marked freeway with no one around. Even if the system craps out / swerves / erroneously brakes / ..., there is plenty of time to take control and correct the situation. There is no safety risk. On the other hand, using it in dense but fast-moving traffic, you should probably hold on to the wheel somewhat tightly in case issues arise.

I myself use this strategy. If traffic is light and I have a lot of space, I don't find it necessary to hold onto the wheel, emphasising that I still am alert and watching the road. On the other hand, I will guide it firmly if a car passes alongside me, the road markings look a bit sketchy, etc... In many cases, if traffic is dense but fast, I won't even engage autopilot.

Reasonable judgement should be applied.
 
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bmah

Moderator
Supporting Member
Mar 17, 2015
4,178
7,755
Lafayette, CA, USA
I've had similar thoughts, having used Tesla's autopilot daily for some six months now. Contrary to prevailing discourse, I don't believe that hanging on to the steering wheel 100% of the time necessarily makes you safer in all situations. Saying so is just a knee-jerk cover-up response to legitimate issues with the system. Example: you are using autopilot on a very wide and well-marked freeway with no one around. Even if the system craps out / swerves / erroneously brakes / ..., there is plenty of time to take control and correct the situation. There is no safety risk. On the other hand, using it in dense but fast-moving traffic, you should probably hold on to the wheel somewhat tightly in case issues arise.

I myself use this strategy. If traffic is light and I have a lot of space, I don't find it necessary to hold onto the wheel, emphasising that I still am alert and watching the road. On the other hand, I will guide it firmly if a car passes alongside me, the road markings look a bit sketchy, etc... In many cases, if traffic is dense but fast, I won't even engage autopilot.

Reasonable judgement should be applied.

Yep. I've learned in 2.5 years of AP1 that alertness isn't an all-or-nothing thing. If I think that there's a possibility of a problem or if I'm feeling the slightest bit nervous, I'm certainly going to get more alert or just turn off AP before it has a chance to get into trouble. (Think bridges, tunnels, construction zones, abnormally narrow lanes, incursion from an adjacent lane, etc. That's actually a pretty long list, come to think of it.)

If I'm on the open road with no traffic around I'll relax a bit. But even in the latter case I've got one hand on the wheel as a general rule (usually 6 o'clock position), not to defeat the nags, but because I want to feel what the autosteer system is doing. I'll even jiggle it every so often because I want to feel the resistance...so I know autosteer is still on. That's also deliberately a different position than I usually drive manually (3 and 9), as an additional mental reminder that I'm on autopilot, and I'm fully capable of maneuvering the car from that position without needing to reposition my hands on the wheel.

Also I rarely steer against autosteering to disengage. I'd rather tap the brake pedal or push forward on the cruise stalk to turn off all of AutoPilot, to eliminate the jerkiness that comes when the autosteering stops resisting my input. This is particular important in the narrow lanes or lane incursion situations....don't want to risk overcorrecting or flailing around and running into something.

Hope this helps someone...

Bruce.
 

Petra

Member
Jan 31, 2015
813
1,218
Palmdale, CA USA
Well, that's one way to look at it... tough, I've actually found significant value in continuing to hold at my usual 3 and 9 since it serves as tactile verification of the system's inputs. I talked about it in my previous Autopilot rant:
 

Ande

Member
Jul 28, 2017
740
543
Norway
@kirkbauer , I agree 100%
I too love my AP , I use it a LOT and love how it keeps improving , recently I drove ~800 km on a small vacation with my son, and had the opportunity to see how well it performs on newly paved, non-marked, small roads with no traffic to follow. the longest I had was about 2km of unmarked asphalt with pretty sharp turns too.

Anyway, I do push the AP, my favorite position is having the steering wheel slip thru my fingers with hands on my lap.
Now and then, I get a visual warning because I hold it too loose.
In the right moment, in an accident, Tesla might very well write "driver got a reminder 20seconds prior to the accident" , just because I got a reminder, yet being very attentive.

SUGGESTIONS:
-Do not count reminders where the driver react to the visual-only warning within <1second (having the steering wheel, but loosely)
-base it on statistics: if my past 100km got 5 warnings, every one got response within 1sec, then do not claim the one warning that lasted 1sec , and occoured 20 seconds between accident says I did not had hands-on-wheel. IF , however driver have unusual response time, or unusually many warning for the last period, such statement can be ok.
-Tesla should STOP telling "driver had not hands on wheel" - it's not really possible to say.

I bet, from my logs alone, my past 100km could have 5 warnings, every one rectified within 1sec. I did, however, had at least one hand on the wheel all the time. So using that kind of data in accidents is just embarrassing.

I would rather see: "driver's last 10 minutes produced 5 warnings, with 4,4,5,2.5,8 seconds to respond" - average response time from driver was "x sec", the drivers "normal" response was average 1.2sec for last 1000km.

That - would indicate whatever the driver have been slow or not...
 
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Krugerrand

Enough of the 🐩, back to 🐈‍⬛
Jul 13, 2012
11,430
62,212
Tesla friendly place
We can agree to disagree, but if I have to take my hand off of the wheel and then grab it in the correct position, that is going to take me longer than if my hands are positioned and ready to grab directly. And I guarantee you I'm not the only one that, when forced to hold the wheel, holds in it an sub-optimal position for taking over. I just may be the only one to admit it.

The rest of my points are also valid. I can hold the wheel and close my eyes. Tesla uses "hands on the wheel" as a proxy for "paying attention" which is inappropriate.

We’re just full of excuses and reasons why not to be responsible drivers, eh?
 
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kirkbauer

Member
May 31, 2015
623
242
Atlanta, GA
We’re just full of excuses and reasons why not to be responsible drivers, eh?

You are fooling yourself if you think hands on the wheel equals responsible AP use. Do you keep your foot on the brake when using cruise control?

The key is paying attention to the road. Tesla uses "hands not on wheel" alerts to indicate lack of attention. In fact, the more you are watching the road, the less likely you will notice the visual indicators to hold the wheel.

The proper response, in my opinion, is the fact that the driver plowed into the back of a stopped firetruck is evidence of complete lack of attention. How many hold the wheel indicators they had is largely irrelevant.

Tesla likely has the data. I'd love to know if the frequency of these alerts is actually higher for those that get into accidents than those who don't
 

kristofior

Member
Mar 9, 2017
31
18
FRANCE
v2018.21.9 : hands on the wheel every 15sec on motorways ?
What about August Tesla Version 9 with 'full self driving features' ? Will it be 5 sec ?
I would prefer to sign a paper/disclaimer saying that me (the driver) I am responsible of whatever would happen if AP is activated. Because of stupid people doing stupid things with AP now the 'hands-on-wheel-check' time is reduced to 15sec for everyone !!!...
 
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