Tired of looking in your blind spot and putting on your turn signal just to change lanes? Then Tesla has good news for you. In its models equipped with Autopilot technology, you can let your car do the signaling and lane changing for you.
Last week, Tesla pushed an over-the-air-update to its vehicles with Autopilot technology that allows for automatic lane changes. With the new software onboard, Tesla owners simply need to go to their vehicle’s Navigation screen to activate the feature.
There, they press the ‘Customize Navigate on Autopilot’ button. If they then choose ‘Enable at Start Trip,’ Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system will activate whenever the driver enters a destination in the navigation system and begins route guidance. From there, the driver can select ‘No’ from the ‘Require Lane Change Confirmation’ toggle.
With these features activated, when the vehicle knows it is on a freeway (through navigation information), it will automatically signal and change lanes — or take off ramps — to keep on the navigation route. Drivers can opt to have a chime warn them ahead of a planned lane change. They can cancel the lane change by either pushing the turn signal stalk or pushing the cancellation pop-up on their center-dash screen.
This update differentiates from previous versions of Autopilot that would make automatic lane changes, but only if the driver signaled the change before hand. Now all the driver has to do is hold the steering wheel while their Tesla does the rest … kind of.
Tesla is wisely quick to point out that “This feature does not make a car autonomous.” Adding, “Until truly driverless cars are validated and approved by regulators, drivers are responsible for and must remain in control of their car at all times.” This is an important stipulation and one we ourselves have made from time to time, because a lot of the public believe that Teslas are autonomous. They’re not.
Are We There Yet?
A warning like this from Tesla is uncharacteristically cautious. It relatively shoots that caution in the foot, however, with the revelation that its ‘Early Access Program’ drivers have been using this system for “more than a half a million miles.” This should be concerning to everyone.
Volkswagen recently revealed that it is now testing self-driving e-Golfs on the streets of Hamburg, Germany. The automaker was also quick to point out that the drivers of these vehicles are specially trained drivers — ones who received strenuous emergency driving and accident-avoidance training. They’re capable of correcting a car’s path in split seconds and strong enough counteract the car’s efforts through steering inputs. This is how traditional automakers test and validate autonomous driving systems.
Not Tesla, though. Since its first foray into self-driving technology, it’s allowed the public to beta-test its newest softwares and driving aides on open roads. All the while spinning marketing campaigns that makes it unclear whether the cars are autonomous or not. The brand is seemingly pleased when people assume the inappropriately named Autopilot is an autonomous car system.
Why does Tesla not test its tech with highly trained drivers and engineers for years on end before releasing it into production cars? Quite simply, it doesn’t have the money. So Tesla drivers are shouldered with the testing duties, which they’ve been tricked into believing is a privilege.
All of this is to say: Please use this feature cautiously. No traditional automaker has released a similar system in its cars. There’s good reason for this — and it’s not because they can’t or don’t have the tech to do it.