I drove the Tesla Model 3 for 2 days and used its most controversial feature - here's why it made me nervous
Mark Matousek/Business Insider
- I used Tesla's Autopilot feature - which allows a vehicle to handle steering, acceleration, and braking in some circumstances, but requires driver supervision - on the highway for the first time at the end of September.
- I could feel my attention starting to drift from time to time when it was on because I felt disconnected from the driving experience.
- And the system would sometimes brake too aggressively.
- Autopilot was most useful in slow-moving traffic.
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Tesla's Autopilot feature - which allows a vehicle to handle steering, acceleration, and braking in some circumstances, but requires driver supervision - has created controversy for the electric-car maker.High-profile crashes involving Autopilot have raised questions about the extent to which drivers are able to use it safely, but Tesla and its CEO, Elon Musk, have argued that overall, the feature makes driving safer.Advertisement
I used Autopilot when I drove Tesla's Model 3 sedan over a weekend at the end of September and came away with mixed feelings about it.
Here's what it was like.Are you a current or former Tesla employee? Do you have an opinion about what it's like to work there? Contact this reporter at email@example.com. You can ask for more secure methods of communication, like Signal or ProtonMail, by email or Twitter direct-message.
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I briefly used Autopilot last year, but had not been able to test it on a highway.
During my first experience using Autopilot, it took me a few tries to trust it.Advertisement
This time, I found it easier to let Autopilot take some of the responsibility for my Model 3's driving.
I set my preferences for Autopilot — like how closely it would follow the car in front of it, and how fast it would go — through the vehicle's touchscreen.Advertisement
To turn Autopilot on, you push down twice on the stalk on the steering wheel's right side.
Autopilot was useful in some ways but concerning in others.Advertisement
Much of the Model 3's appeal comes from the driving experience, so I often didn't want to use Autopilot, but I understood how it could be useful during a long trip.
Autopilot has two primary parts: autosteer and adaptive cruise control.Advertisement
Adaptive cruise control, which controls the car's speed and keeps it at a set distance behind the vehicle in front of it, was more useful, but also gave me more problems.
It was very conservative when it sensed a car merging onto the highway, sometimes braking more abruptly than I would have liked.Advertisement
Adaptive cruise-control was most effective when I was in slow-moving traffic heading into Manhattan.
I preferred Autopilot to Nissan's ProPilot Assist, a semi-autonomous driver-assistance feature with similar capabilities.Advertisement
I felt even less comfortable with Nissan's steering assist function, as it would at times turn off abruptly with only a chime sound to alert me.
I came to the same conclusion with Autopilot as I did when I tested ProPilot Assist: Adaptive cruise-control is very useful in some situations, but when combined with autosteer, it makes it harder to pay attention to the road.Advertisement
Using Autopilot showed me how far autonomous-driving technology has come, and how far it has to go to make fully self-driving cars a reality.
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