I’m returned from my 4,500-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. 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 them.
Sometimes I couldn’t figure out why NoA failed to start a passing maneuver when it should have. In some cases 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.