Tesla's New Autopilot Drives Like It's Drunk

By Bryan Le 02/20/17

The car reportedly has trouble maintaining its lane through an intersection—just like someone who did a few shots before driving.

The software has some growing up—and sobering up—to do.

Tesla’s much-touted Autopilot won’t be the designated driver anytime soon—it drives like it's drunk, according to a user on Tesla’s official forums.

“Was very excited today to get Firmware (17.5.36)…until I tested it,” writes user Chris.Skaling. “Imagine you go to the bar, you had six double shots, and threw back five or six beers. Then you decide to be an idiot and drive. That’s how the car drives with ‘Local road driving’ AP2. It’s basically not usable.”

The Autopilot 2 update is a recent upgrade from Tesla to its smart cars, but is still in beta (or testing) form. It’s being rolled out with Hardware 2, a new set of sensors built into newer Tesla models made in October 2016 and later. 

Before this update, the car was only allowed to automatically maintain its lane and distance from other drivers on the highway and navigate on/off ramps. A Tesla car was able to predict and warn at least one driver of an impending accident in a video that went viral recently:

This newest update was intended to allow the car to navigate local roads, a much more difficult task for a computer and its array of sensors than highway driving. But according to Chris.Skaling, the car could not maintain its lane through an intersection, did not slow down for a smooth 90-degree turn and seemed to confusedly try to merge into the bike lane. 

"I hope Elon proves me wrong. He has in the past,” Chris.Skaling writes, referring to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. “I just don't see it.”

Other users are still optimistic, considering the technology is officially only in beta testing and is supposed to improve with all the accumulated data every Tesla collects as it drives.

“I, too, work in technology and have the same excitement about being part of the process as my soon-to-be-delivered Tesla S 90D gradually becomes smarter,” writes dsopocy in response. “Remember the FSD software has an AI component that they are training based on telemetry data continuously being collected across the entire Tesla fleet of operational vehicles.”

While Tesla might not be ready for the world, the world may not be ready for Tesla either. A driver relying on the Autopilot was killed last year. More recently, a grieving father claims his daughter would have survived her Tesla drunk-driving accident if she were in a car that didn’t accelerate so dangerously fast.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter