Tesla’s Autopilot self-driving feature is about to stop for red lights, a most useful feature if you’re going to be full-self-driving in urban areas. It also will sense green lights but only proceed through them if the driver keeps pressure on the gas pedal – sorry, throttle pedal – after being sure there’s no other hazard such as an oncoming car turning left.
News of this apparent new feature, cited in a future Tesla owner’s manual, is leaking out. The feature combines GPS that tells the car when it’s near a traffic signal; the car’s camera; and onboard software that determines the signal phase, traffic-engineer-speak for if it’s green, yellow or red.
Portions of the manual were posted on Twitter by green (@greentheonly). The pages say it’s for “Model 3Model Y” as if the included-model phrase got a search-and-replace without a separating space.
Here’s how it works: You must be using Autosteer or Traffic-Aware Cruise Control, and have enabled the “Stopping at Traffic Lights and Stop Signs” (nine-syllable!) feature. When approaching a traffic light, no matter if it’s green, the car slows down and displays a red line on the display to show where the vehicle would come to a stop. Want to continue going through on green? Press down on the gear selector or tap the throttle. The red stop line turns gray, the car proceeds through the intersection, and then resumes the cruising speed.
Manual has comprehensive explanation of all the stopping stuff. And yes. It's all GPS based with just some vision assist. pic.twitter.com/nEYC6hBqTS
— green (@greentheonly) March 28, 2020
Some responders to @greentheonly took exception to the description of Stopping at Traffic Lights and Stop Signs as merely GPS based “with just some vision assist.”
If you enter or get close to the intersection on a phase change, green to yellow or yellow to red, the car may decide to stop. You can force the car through the intersection if you’re the type who presses the gas pedal harder on yellow.
Tesla includes a couple of additional warnings. If you’re in a turning lane, the car stops at the red stop line created on the display. If there’s no red stopping line, it means the car didn’t detect a traffic “and you must take over all driving maneuvers.” The manual also warns that if you’re cruising up to a signalized intersection and the display doesn’t show the red possible-stopping line, it means the car will keep on going through the intersection.
— Out of Spec Motoring (@Out_of_Spec) March 26, 2020
A video was posted on Twitter by Out of Spec Motoring (@out_of_spec) showing the Stopping at Traffic Lights and Stop Signs feature in action. It appears to be a video obtained from Tesla. Tesla PR people didn’t confirm or deny the video being real (if not real, it’s one hell of a stunt created by people with downtime on the event of coronavirus), except then Elon Musk retweeted a screengrab tweeted by Third Row Tesla Podcast (@thirdrowtesla) and said, in effect, this is the kind of stuff Tesla is doing.
Our take: This is quite likely a feature that will roll into Tesla’s $7,000 Full-Self Driving option, as well as into Tesla’s early access program that lets regular drivers (not Tesla test drivers) beta-test features.
It also shows how advanced Tesla has become and why it’s stock nearly tripled between last summer and Feb. 14 (the day before the stock market did its recreation of 2008 and 1929). Tesla stock went stratospheric because investors who want place bets on EVs and autonomy find Tesla may be the purest play.
Not that Autopilot is perfected. Researchers found that the old trick of taping a 35 mph sign to look (even partly) like 85 mph persuades Autopilot to assume you-know-what speed.
At the same time, Tesla isn’t alone. Lots of automakers know how to recognize stop signs and traffic lights. (They don’t self-drive through, though.) Audi especially has been busy combining GPS and V2I technology, starting with Las Vegas, the metro area with the smartest, interconnected traffic signals, to alert drivers to lights about to go red, and once you’re stopped at the light, get a countdown until the light goes green.
One thing Audi learned quickly about the American-driver ethic is this: Stop the countdown at 3 (seconds before green) because otherwise some drivers will hammer the throttle at 0 and be at risk of T-boning a driver coming through on a late yellow. Darwinism is alive in America.
- Audi Traffic Light Info Helps You Catch Multiple Green Lights
- Tesla Begins Shipping Model Y Electric Vehicles 6 Months Early
- Tesla Teardown Scares Competitors: ‘We Cannot Do This’