Published on October 3rd, 2020 |
by Zachary Shahan
October 3rd, 2020 by Zachary Shahan
This evening on Twitter, after receiving the 4,200th request for bird’s eye view to be included in Tesla touchscreen visualizations, Tesla CEO Elon Musk provided the first affirmative response I’ve seen to this request. He noted that “Vector-space bird’s eye view” would come with “Full Self Driving” (FSD) once that is implemented, something that is expected to occur across the Tesla fleet later this year (but note that some are skeptical of the timeline since the forecast for this has been extended several times).
Given that this is a very popular request and there are simply times when you’d like to look at a bird’s eye view of your car while trying to park it or play car tennis with it (not a real game, don’t take me seriously in the middle of the night), I’m sure there will be many happy Tesla owners in the morning — and more so when they get FSD.
The one thing that now confuses me as I’m writing this: why do you need a bird’s eye view visualization when you have FSD? The answer that comes to mind, perhaps correct or perhaps overlooking something, is that we Tesla drivers still need to carefully observe what our cars are doing until FSD is fully refined in order to 1) make sure we don’t end up screaming and crying from our cars accidentally scratching themselves in weird edge cases, and 2) help train the FSD neural nets until they’re ready for graduation into unsupervised full self driving.
The other possible answers for this are: 1) it’ll be easier to do after the FSD software rewrite, 2) it will look cool, and 3) Elon is tired of people requesting it.
While this bird’s eye view feature is one I’m excited for, there’s another feature coming with FSD that I’m much more excited about and which I think will have much bigger impact. However, I’m also still curious to see if it works as smoothly (i.e., usefully) as I’m imagining. As you might have guessed from the title, that is pothole avoidance.
At the moment, I’m pretty sure I have Autopilot on most of the time while driving my Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus. I’m also quite positive that the #1 thing that reduces my use of Autopilot is potholes. Yes, I have to turn Autopilot off to make turns and through some complicated intersections in which the car will freak out if I don’t do the driving, but those are short segments of the road. On the other hand, there are several portions of extended roadway where potholes and bumps just make Autopilot impractical and “force me” to drive the car myself for minutes at a time.
Elon confirmed a month and a half ago that FSD would indeed try to avoid potholes and drive more slowly over bumpy areas.
Yes! We’re labeling bumps & potholes, so the car can slow down or steer around them when safe to do so.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 14, 2020
How well the car will be able to do this is the big question. Will it do so well enough that I (and millions of others) find it more useful and pleasant to let Autopilot do that driving, or will it be too jerky, imprecise, or awkward to use in many or most cases?
This is actually a pretty fascinating matter. Next time you are driving, observe closely how much you pull the car to one side of the lane or the other, or change lanes, or act in some other way to avoid bumps and potholes in the road. There are so many kinds of cases like this that highlight how nuanced the act of driving actually is. It’s not simply about staying in your lane and following traffic rules.
Given how challenging this is to do well, I guarantee you that if Tesla Autopilot/FSD does a tremendous job when it comes to this often forgotten challenge, I will write an enthusiastic article about all about how well Tesla Autpilot/FSD avoids or lessens the impact of potholes and bumps. If Tesla can solve that challenge, I think we’ll be at true full self driving potential.
Aside from bird’s eye view and pothole avoidance — as well as the basics of a self-driving car (taking turns, staying in the lane, automatically parking and leaving a parking lot, responding appropriately to all types of roads and signs, and going through roundabouts) — what other features would you expect or desire in the coming FSD package?
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