Given how many people blame autonomous driving for taking the fun out of cars, the number of people trying the Tesla Autopilot is somewhat surprising.
The pandemic originating in the US is rapidly spreading throughout Europe now, having reached Russia after a quick stop in Sweden we’ve already talked about. Unlike the guy testing the feature in the Scandinavian country, these two drive (or rather are driven by) the Tesla in the crowded and chaotic traffic in Moscow.
As Tesla has repeatedly said, this feature is not meant to be used inside cities, being more of a helper in dealing with the tedious highway driving. But, let’s be honest, we all knew things like what we see in this clip were bound to happen from the moment Tesla announced the feature.
However, something devised in the US and built for the reasonably civilized way of driving they employ over there is going to struggle when faced with the ordeals of a city like Moscow. And with its taxi drivers, nonetheless.
Everything starts off nicely. The Model S is doing a safe 42 km/h (26 mph) driving behind other cars with the system keeping a safe distance from the traffic in front. And here is where the first problem arises: whoever has driven in Eastern Europe (Turkey included) knows that these people will move from one lane to the other the moment they spot a gap. It’s like that is a vacuum dragging them in and they can’t do anything to oppose it.
Since the Tesla Autopilot will never drive as close to the car in front as a regular driver would, cars will jump in front all the time. That’s not a problem for the system itself - as we can clearly see later in the clip - but it might quickly get a bit frustrating for the driver (turned spectator).
Anyhow, the main focus of this clip is the way the Autopilot reacts to the taxi driver cutting the Tesla off from the right. Sensing the car approaching, the Model S begins beeping and even veers a little to the left, without leaving the lane, though. The move proves to be enough to let the taxi through, but it’s hard to say whether an accident would have occurred if the car hadn’t turned left. Probably not.
But the most important thing to notice is the driver’s reaction. Or the lack of it. He was so relaxed, he didn’t even notice the cab driver approaching from behind, so when the Tesla emitted that alert beep, he had no idea what was going on. If you ask me, that’s the real problem with these systems. They tell you to keep your hands on the wheel, but your mind will inevitably fly off to distant places. And when the you-know-what hits the fan, it’ll be just like in a game when you get spawned in the middle of the action. “OK, what do I do now?”