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Tesla Autopilot review September 2019

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I finally spent some time with my wife’s Tesla, driving it on a longer trip. I used autopilot for quite a bit of the drive, but didn’t use the “Navigate on Autopilot” feature, which her car does have.

Bottom line is it worked extremely well. Compared to the adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist of my 2016 Subaru Legacy with eyesight, it was amazing how much more enjoyable the drive was with the car staying centered in the lane the entire trip.

Regarding the speed control, adaptive cruise control, or whatever you want to call it – the Tesla did fine with that, basically following the car in front of me at the appropriate speed I set. It followed the car in front of me a bit closer than I would have preferred, and my wife didn’t know that I could adjust the following distance by rotating the cruise control stalk. I’m curious what she has it set to, but overall, speed control seemed pretty similar to what I experience in my Subaru. The biggest advantage of the Tesla was that when I came to a complete stop, the Tesla would automatically start again when the car in front of me started to move. My 2016 Legacy will come to a complete stop and then “hold” until I either push the cruise control button or tap the accelerator. It isn’t the biggest deal, but it was nice in the Tesla to not have to do that. I’ve read on some forums that newer versions of Eyesight on some vehicles work differently in stop and go traffic – not holding at a complete stop. That would be a downgrade in my opinion. Not a huge deal as eyesight is not really meant for situations where you come to a complete stop and I rarely use in that situation.

The lane centering though is a completely different experience in the Tesla. I am curious if the lane centering feature being advertised in the 2020 Subaru eyesight will be usable for more situations, or how much it will actually steer one curving roads, but the 2016 eyesight lane keep assist really doesn’t add much to the driving experience.

On all but the smallest side roads during my trip, autopilot was available. I would engage it and then the car would follow the vehicle in front and keep the car in the current lane (again, I didn’t use Navigate on Autopilot). If I wanted to change lanes, I could just hit the lane change stalk, and the car would do the rest, slowing down and moving into the neighboring lane when there was a spot to do so. It worked well, but I wasn’t in any major traffic, so there wasn’t anything too challenging about it. I noticed that the car did detect the vehicles around me and would show them as icons of either a car, truck, or motorcycle accurately on the screen.

Every 30 seconds or so, the car would ask me to apply gentle pressure to the steering wheel to show that I was still paying attention. If I didn’t, it would then start flashing, and if I still didn’t, it would then beep and I assume it would have disengaged.

There were a few mistakes on a smaller road where the left lane had exit lanes in the median with poor lane markings. The car assumed the lane went to the left and it would start to steer into the median turn lane. On the highway, there were no issues.

While I wouldn’t trust it enough to take naps in the car or watch movies like some idiots have been caught doing, it did make the trip more enjoyable for me. Perhaps it was because of the novelty of seeing the future.

Having said all of that, the Tesla is far from a perfect vehicle and there is one glaring feature that should have been implemented well before now. I’m not sure why they haven’t, but it really needs a rear cross traffic alert. The Subaru rear cross traffic alert is invaluable. It is one feature that you don’t realize how much you appreciate it until you are in a car without it. Yes, the driver is responsible to check behind him/her and pay attention and the Tesla has a giant rear-view camera, etc etc, but it still should beep when there is someone walking behind the car. There is really no good excuse I can think of for them not to have this implemented already.

It makes me wonder if there is a hardware issue that whatever sensors and cameras they have just don’t pick up motion the same way the Subaru does. If it is in fact a hardware issue, I’m not sure they will ever be able to get the advanced summon to work as promised. Obviously the car will need to detect if someone is walking behind the car before it backs out of a spot. Hopefully they can get a software update to activate it, but it makes no sense for them to keep adding other “fun” features while neglecting a safety one.

The lack of rear cross traffic alert is one of the major reasons I’m not going to get myself a Tesla at this time. The other feature it is missing is Android Auto or Apple Car Play. Issues with getting service / parts when needed is a concern too.

So, a Tesla model 3 is close to being the perfect car for my needs – highly efficient all electric with usable range for my purposes, combined with amazing advanced lane keep assist / speed control. If it had rear cross traffic alert and android auto I would probably buy one tomorrow, even though my Subaru is just fine.

I made my car preference without any mention of the amazing speed and performance of the Tesla, which is really great, but just not high on priority lists these days. They do look nice too.

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