Tesla’s inching closer to the self-driving dream with its latest Autopilot update.
Last week, Tesla quietly dropped some new abilities to its semi-autonomous driving system called Autopilot. The update gives all Tesla cars with Autopilot activated the option to stop at street lights and stop signs without the driver having to touch the brakes. Stop signs, streetlight symbols, and other road signage information are also now more visible on the screen.
But the new Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control feature, which is still in beta, still involves a lot of active participation from the driver. After stopping at a red light or stop sign, the driver has to press on the accelerator or gear stalk for the car to continue straight ahead. (The car will stay in Autopilot mode, whereas before if you grabbed the wheel or touched any pedals or levers, you were booted off the system.) The driver can also choose to disable Autopilot and takeover the wheel, so if you need to make a left turn or a U-turn, you’re back in charge.
The biggest change in this update is how Autopilot performs on local roads. Most Autopilot features up until now worked mainly on major freeways.
No matter what, there’s no sitting back and relaxing. The Tesla owner in the video above conceded that the driver’s constant need for involvement at any intersection quickly becomes tiresome. The Autopilot feature seems most helpful at making sure you stop at the stop sign every time.
Many videos of the new Autopilot skill reveal a glaring problem: The car slows to nearly a full stop even at green lights. That’s a bit too conservative and can even be very dangerous. You can override the traffic light stop suggestions, just like you can override Autopilot mode. So if you see a green light coming up, you can swat away the suggestion to use the traffic control feature.
So keep your eyes on the road — Autopilot, once again, barely lives up to its name.