The Great American Model 3 Road Trip

I’ve never taken a tip this long, over 4,500 miles across the United States from Virginia to Idaho, Yellowstone, Denver and back. But it seemed like an adventure, and I figured that Tesla Autopilot would do most of the driving. So here we go …

Day 1

Day 1 starts in Palmyra, Virginia where I live. I charged to 100% at home on my Tesla Model 3 Long Range RWD. The result was a surprising 308 miles of range. I expected closer to 325. I think a couple of things, including the fact that I never charge to 100%, nor let it go low, has has not allowed the battery management system to calibrate itself. The car supposedly had 310 miles to start with and a software update should have increased it to 325.

We drove to Louisville, KY on the first of our 400-mile segments. Autopilot did a great job on the Interstate highways. All I had to do was watch. Still it was a tiring day.

A special unplanned side trip was to the Kentucky Folk Art Center at Morehead. Admission is free and the collection is quite interesting.

Day 2

The second segment was from Louisville to Columbus, Missouri, the fastest growing city in the state. We had some seriously heavy rain on the trip, so heavy I could barely make out the lines on the highway. Fortunately Autopilot didn’t have that problem. Check out this amazing video:

Some of the rain was so heavy I could hardly even see the road, much less the lines.

When we arrived in Columbus I made my usual check for Tesla News at Electrek, and found that the latest firmware update for the car has increased Supercharging speed. That explains why the car keeps charging before we’re finished eating or even going to the restroom. This is not like the old days in our Tesla Model S 75 when we spent lots of time waiting. I considered 75 kW good for that car, but I was peaking at 146 kW today.

Later on in this article I will have some comments on Navigate on Autopilot.

More to come…

Posted in Electric vehicles, General, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tesla Autopilot vs. Farm Machinery

Tesla Autopilot is still described as “Beta” because the human driver has to maintain vigilance to ensure safety. I don’t usually share my Autopilot outtake videos in public, but this one is interesting in pointing out one of the challenges for AI self-driving, handling the unusual.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like the piece of farm equipment that pulled in front of my Model 3 today while Autopilot was enabled. The speed was 45 mph. I wondered what would happen, and at the last minute I slammed on my brakes to prevent a collision that would surely have occurred had I not done so.

I use Autopilot a lot and I will continue to use it. I will also continue to watch the road.

Firmware 2019.16.2.

Posted in Autonomous Vehicles, Electric vehicles | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

As the Tesla Turns

I didn’t think my Tesla Autopilot was supposed to make turns at intersections yet (firmware 2019.8.5), but it did.

Posted in Autonomous Vehicles, Electric vehicles | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Tesla Autopilot gets 5-Star insurance rating

My insurance carrier, State Farm, offers the “Drive Safe and Save â„¢” program that rates driving, and offers discounts for good driving. It works using a “beacon” installed in the car, essentially an accelerometer paired with your mobile phone. It tracks location, speed, acceleration, braking, cornering and whether you’re using your mobile phone.

I’ve had the Drive Safe and Save beacon in my Model S for a couple of years. When I first got their app, the only information provided was a quarterly report. It said I accelerated too rapidly and braked too abruptly–that’s how Autopilot 1.0 worked back in 2017. Now the State Farm app is much more informative, allowing you to view your latest trip. It even pinpoints on a map when you do something it doesn’t approve of.

Just recently I installed the Drive Safe and Save beacon on my Model 3 with Autopilot 2.5 hardware. Today I took a 16-mile trip involving metropolitan city streets and very challenging twisty rural highways. Autopilot drove the entire way except when I had to manually stop for stop lights and make turns. When Drive Save and Save graded my driving, it was really grading Autopilot. Here is the result:

Drive Safe and Save app screenshot showing 5-star rating.

It gave my car’s driving 5 stars. That’s better than I usually get.

Posted in Autonomous Vehicles | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tesla Autopilot evolution and driver supervision

Tesla Autopilot

I’ve enjoyed Tesla Enhanced Autopilot on my Tesla Model 3, including the new Navigate on Autopilot feature. Autopilot requires human supervision, or else something bad is likely to happen. I believe that the combination of Autopilot and a human driver is better than a human driver alone. The human managing Autopilot has more bandwidth to monitor traffic and things approaching from the side. It reduces stress and helps the driver stay fresh.

With the current Autopilot the car sets a safe following distance with the car ahead, and does so superbly with extreme reliability. It also steers the car along the road just fine on controlled access highways, and with fair results on curvy rural highways. Basically, all the driver has to do us just watch for irregularities in the traffic and to pay attention to steering on tight curves. This is easy.

I have some reservations about supervising the Full Self-Driving Capability features slated for release this year. The car will do a lot more things to watch out for. It will change lanes on controlled-access highways. It will stop for traffic signals and stop signs. It will merge and exit roundabouts. Presumably it will handle city driving. That’s a lot to watch out for. It’s one thing to make sure the car keeps doing what it is doing, and another when the car starts making turns, yielding and switching lanes. Not only does the driver have to monitor the traffic, but also what the Autopilot is doing. Stay tuned.

MIT has been studying self-driving for some time, and they have just published a paper on the “Human Side of Tesla Autopilot.”

Posted in Autonomous Vehicles | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s with Tesla Model 3 range?

My Model 3

When I bought my Tesla Model 3 Long Range RWD car last August, the EPA rated it at 310 miles of range. That was pretty great in my mind. But then something odd happened. Tesla introduced a dual motor version, which the EPA said was less fuel efficient, but with the same 310 miles of range. Supposedly both cars had the same battery, but why didn’t the less efficient car have lower range?

Not too long ago Tesla quietly changed the EPA rating of its Mid Range RWD Model 3 from 249 to 264 miles.

Now yesterday Tesla announced their long awaited $35,000 Standard Range RWD Tesla Model 3 with the advertised 220 miles of EPA rated range, but then something else happened–they added a new Standard Range Plus model for $37,000 miles and 240 miles of range, presumably again with the same battery.

And to complete the circle Tesla announced that my 310-mile car will receive a firmware update to increase its range to 325 miles. Well, isn’t that nice? It’s certainly interesting that not only is Tesla cutting prices on its cars, but their range is increasing too, even on cars they’ve already sold.

Posted in Electric vehicles | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Christmas came a little early

Last night I got a notice on my smartphone: My Tesla Model 3 has a software update. It’s like Christmas came early and I can hardly wait to open the presents.

So what did I get?

I got a new fireplace, with romantic music from the car’s “Romantic Mode.” This is a photo of the car’s 15″ touchscreen.

Romance Mode

And I got a video game with controller. It’s Atari Pole Position on Mars! I can actually use the car’s steering wheel to drive the game car and use the brake pedal as an accelerator.

Model 3 Mars Pole Position game

My dog got a heated dog house. Model S got a feature to leave the climate system on when exiting the car some months ago. Now it’s available for Model 3. Our dog Katie will be happy about that one.

And then I got a whoopie cushion. It’s called “Emissions Testing Mode.” Yes friends, when you activate the turn signal, the car farts. You can select which seat the fart seems to come from.

So those are the fun toys from Tesla. I also got socks, in the form of updates and fixes. One welcome update is an improvement in the Navigate on Autopilot feature where the car knows when it should get out of the passing lane. I expect the car will actually initiate the lane changes soon. I can hardly wait.

Posted in Electric vehicles, General | Tagged , , | Leave a comment