Friday, April 19, 2019

Back To My Obsessions

One problem with Tesla is they are constantly updating their "autopilot" features with over the air updates. Autopilot isn't really autopilot, it's just driver assist features which Elon likes to claim lets the car drive itself, even as his legal department says NO NO NO NO. But whatever the merits of the features of themselves, on all cars with such capabilities, there are two entities now driving the car. On an old fashioned car without a sentient being in the computer making extra decisions, I hit the gas, turn the wheel, hit the brake... I know what's going to happen. Driver assist safety features mean the little Chappie inside the computer is sometimes going to step in and make decisions for you. Those might be great features! But they also require a bit of learning on the part of the driver. If your car is going to suddenly swerve or brake to avoid an accident - maybe a good feature! - then as a driver you have to be somewhat aware of how this works.

If every few weeks they send a software update which modifies how this works, you need to relearn this a bit. Maybe just a bit. It's not a big deal. But knowing how your car is going to respond in certain situations and understanding when it does is important, if for no other reason than you don't panic when it does happen.

Tesla takes it a step further because it does want to claim the car can sorta drive itself on highways BUT DO NOT TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF THE WHEEL - LEGAL and now does automatic lane changes. To the extent that it is driving itself - and it is, some - having your hands on the wheel isn't going to help much. If you're expecting your car to change a lane without your help you aren't going to realize until it's too late that it's about to swerve into a semi. Essentially you're going to be battling a second driver who you are supposed to trust is doing the right thing.

It makes everybody the instructor in a student car, one with a second set of controls, having to know when to intervene when the student is about to mess up, but also needing to trust that the student is going to do the right thing. But that student changes every few weeks, as the software updates arrive, and behaves a bit differently. This is hard!