Posted on February 05, 2016 by Matt Pressman
Car and Driver* magazine's most recent issue compares the top semi-autonomous cars on the market today. This self-driving showdown includes what Car and Driver deems the auto industry's best-in-class: the Tesla Model S P85D, BMW 750i, Infiniti Q50S, and Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG. The magazine calls these: "Four cars itching to prove they're better at driving than you. Or your pet." Although we've seen many car battles in leading auto publications, we applaud the editorial team at Car and Driver for putting these cars "to the test" in order to evaluate who is winning the race for the future of autonomous driving. In this post, we extract their findings and key excerpts specific to the Model S.
But first... why test semi-autonomous features at all? The magazine explains: "Sadly, we are a nation of mediocre drivers, distracted on our daily journeys by dining, child rearing, makeup applying, and incessant texting. Driver’s ed. is a shadow of its former self, and few of us are able to use the accident-avoidance capabilities built into every new car. Our driving errors cause crashes, injuries, and fatalities. So while we’re getting worse behind the wheel, the sensors and algorithms capable of saving us from ourselves are getting better. And although we're not [yet] convinced that this will ever yield totally hands-off personal transportation, scores of manufacturers are working feverishly to prove us wrong."
To that end, Car and Driver gathered the four luxury cars that have: "done the most to purge human frailties from the acts of cruising, braking, and steering. The main focus was automatic lane keeping: how well these four early semi-autonomous cars guide you safely and securely while relying on their electronic wits instead of the driver’s hands, eyes, and judgment. Using a 50-mile mix of freeway stretches, rural two-lanes, and city streets, we tabulated exactly how many guidance interruptions were caused by broken lane marks, inconsistent pavement patches, intersections, and exit and entrance ramps. We also noted when a car lost the lane-keeping sense for no apparent reason. We ranked the four contenders according to the number of control lapses each test car experienced." But, let's get right to it. Why did the Tesla Model S P85D win first place during Car and Driver's extensive testing?
Car and Driver explains why: "The sedan that begs to differ is the test’s clear winner. With utmost confidence and only two cautions from legal counsel—'Always keep your hands on the wheel. Be prepared to take over at any time'—the Tesla Model S locks onto the path ahead with a cruise missile’s determination and your hands resting on your lap."
Car and Driver explains how Tesla Autopilot works: "A thin control stalk tucked behind the left steering-wheel spoke commands the cruise-control speed (up or down clicks), the interval to the car ahead (twist of an end switch), and Autosteer initiation (two quick pulls back). A chime signals activation, and the cluster displays various pieces of information: the car ahead, if it’s within radar range, and lane marks, illuminated when in use for guidance. A steering-wheel symbol glows blue when your steering input is no longer needed, and Tesla’s gauge cluster also displays the speed limit and your cruise-control setting. The Model S knows its way via two tracking mechanisms: locking onto the car ahead or sighting the lane marks. When there’s difficulty reading the road, a 'Hold Steering Wheel' advisory appears. If lane keeping is interrupted, a black wheel gripped by red hands and a 'Take Over Immediately' message appear on the dash."
Why does the magazine feel Tesla's semi-autonomous driving features are better? They elaborate: "The Tesla’s Autosteer performance can be distinguished from our other contenders by two words: no wobbling. Tesla identifies the exact center of your lane of travel and holds that course with minimal deviation. This system rises well above parlor-trick status to beg your use in daily driving. Also to Tesla’s credit, this is the only car capable of hands-free lane changes. You simply use the turn signal the normal way and the Model S glides smoothly into the next lane after verifying that there’s space to do so safely. To move two lanes, you must signal that desire with two separate flicks of the stalk. This function also can be used on freeway entrance and exit ramps."
Car and Driver concludes:
By tallying only 29 interruptions in 50 miles, Tesla’s Autopilot app lives in a class of one.
Last, if you'd like an "official" overview of Tesla Autopilot capabilities, Tesla Motors just released a short video overview of its functionality...
Source: Tesla Motors
*Source (including all images): Car and Driver