I’m returned from my 5,000-mile Model 3 road trip, which gave me a great deal of time to think about Tesla Autopilot as I supervised it across the US and back.
Technically NoA works as designed most of the time. It changes lanes to follow the route, it exits, it merges and it passes slower traffic on controlled-access highways. In one instance it tried to take the wrong exit in a rather complicated interchange, and in another it failed to take an exit when it should have. I caught both of them before a mistake was completed.
What NoA fails to do is operate with “common sense”; for example, a human is not going to attempt to pass a car that has slowed slightly with its blinker on approaching an exit ramp. I know the car is going to take the exit and I don’t need to pass. I also know not to try to pass a car going one mph slower than me near the top of a hill; that car is going to speed up after cresting the hill and I’ll never get around it. I tend to drive near the posted speed limit and sometimes other cars go faster. NoA will put you in the passing lane sometimes and back up a lot of traffic; if I were driving myself, I wouldn’t have attempted to pass in those circumstances.
Sometimes I couldn’t figure out why NoA failed to start a passing maneuver when it should have. Sometimes NoA is almost prescient, predicting that it’s going to need to pass before I detect the distant slow down, but other times NoA will come up behind a truck traveling 10 mph slower them me and just sit there. Suffice it to say that there is room for improvement.
I set NoA to signal me by vibrating the wheel when it is about to pass. That way I know to tug the wheel to make sure the car knows I’m holding it. The worst thing about Autopilot is holding the wheel, but the car not sensing it. It’s a constant distraction and annoyance. You can’t hold tension on the wheel for 8 hours a day without relaxing. My wrist was getting sore.