It takes a lot of getting used to, and you may have to use your head.
The second test drive is aimed at automated driving
Tesla, a company that has been attracting a lot of attention as an electric car and also as a charismatic manager « Elon Musk », I was allowed to test drive the car for the second time since last April.
This test ride was actually held in February. I noticed it about a week before the event started and rushed to apply, but it was too late and I was turned down.
What are Tesla’s self-driving features?
« Auto Lane Change. »
« Auto Park. »
Press Release: Tesla Motors: Practical use of the automatic driving function in Japan. Started to deliver software including the self-driving function to Model S. | from Tesla Motors Japan報道資料：テスラモーターズ 自動運転機能を日本国内で実用化。モデルS に、自動運転機能を含むソフトウエアの配信を開始。テスラモーターズ (本社：米国カリフォルニア州、会長兼CEO：イーロン マスク、日本法人：東京都港区、日本法人代表取締役社長：ニコラ ヴィレジェ）は、2016年1月15日、同社が販売する電気自動車4ドアセダン「テスラ モデルS」に、日本国内で自動運転を段階的に実現するソフトウエアの提供を開始しました。 今回の配信で提供...
Both of these vehicles were the first in Japan to receive approval from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to be used on public roads.
These automated driving functions are realized by a total of 12 ultrasonic sensors, six in front and six in back, a radar that measures the distance between vehicles in front, and a camera placed on the top of the windshield. I guess this is what they meant when they said that the hardware was already ready for the automatic driving function when I test drove the car last year.
I’ve been invited to participate in an additional slot in March.
The test ride location is at Yumenoshima Marina. We started from here. We will cross the Tokyo Gate Bridge and come back again. By the way, I’ve never crossed the Tokyo Gate Bridge, so I’m looking forward to it too.
So, here we are at Yumenoshima Marina.
I’ve driven through the nearby Metropolitan Expressway Wangan Line countless times, but this is the first time I’ve been in this area, or gotten out of my car here. Still, it’s a marina, so it feels like there’s nothing to do if you don’t have a purpose to go sailing. We arrived a little early, so we had a coffee at a cafe restaurant in the marina and waited until 16:00, our reservation time.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a Tesla, and they’ve updated it quite a bit in a year.
And at 4pm, the time of the appointment. The attendant picks us up at the cafe and takes us to the car. It’s been a year since we’ve seen each other. The interior hasn’t changed much.
For now, at this point (late March 2016), the Model S software in Japan is version 6.2. the main updates are « automatic emergency braking », « blind spot warning », and « valet mode » (which is a feature that stops security completely. The main update is said to be the addition of « automatic emergency braking », « blind spot warning », and « valet mode » (a function to completely stop the security system, which is used for inspections, etc.).
On the face of it, I noticed that the driver’s display, the display next to the driver’s seat, and the display in the center of the forward body of the car have changed significantly. It’s easier to notice this than the improved functionality of the car itself.
The display in the center of the front of the vehicle, which controls the car navigation system (or rather, Google Maps) and audio equipment, seems to have taken on a much cleaner, more recent design. (To be honest, it may have been lame before.
« Autopilot: Generally smooth, with some difficulty at intersections.
From here, I will write a brief explanation of the three main functions and my impressions of the experience.
The first basic feature would be this « Autopilot ». It works by recognizing the lane lines (white lines) on the road. When it recognizes a lane, the lane line (usually white) on the dashboard display in front of the steering wheel appears in blue. Then, the steering wheel and car icons on the top of the meter will be marked in blue instead of gray, as shown in the picture below.
The system also has a function that recognizes the car in front and automatically follows it. This allows you to maintain a constant distance and match the speed of the car in front of you.
At the intervals I’ve actually ridden it, it seems comfortable and safe to ride along the line.
However, it is assumed that there is a lane line (both sides), so when you enter an intersection, this line disappears and it becomes somewhat uneasy. According to the Tesla representative, it’s okay because the lane lines will be restored once you exit the intersection. However, in the case of a large intersection with two or three lanes, it will take some time to get through the intersection. On the route we took this time, there were a few intersections that were basically two lanes, but when you include the right turn lane, it becomes three lanes, and it took a long time to get back to the normal lane when exiting these intersections, so we were quite worried.
« Auto Lane Change »: very smooth and comfortable
It is a function that even the lane is changed automatically when the blinker is operated. It might be one of the most interesting features once you get used to it.
In the U.S., you only need to operate the blinker and not touch the steering wheel, but in Japan (which seems to be basically all countries except the U.S.), you need to keep your hands on the steering wheel. Since you have your hand on the steering wheel, you can feel the steering wheel move automatically.
When we test drove the car, the road was empty, so we were able to change lanes relatively smoothly, but it will be interesting to see what happens when the road is crowded to some extent.
« Autopark: Great, but I’m not sure how narrow it can go.
The last part was an explanation of the auto-parking function. This was not done by me, but by the person in charge who operated it and experienced it.
However, the normal garage and parking mode is more attractive than parallel parking when you drive in Japan.
Extra « automatic braking »: it was difficult to understand where it comes from.
It seems that this automatic braking is not a new addition, but something that has always been there. However, it was a pity that I could not experience the automatic braking by myself. It’s hard to get the hang of it if you’re not familiar with it, and we didn’t get the hang of it in just a short test drive.
This automatic braking seems to be applied when the car is following the car in front of it, but for reasons such as the fact that I don’t yet know when the brakes start to be applied, and I haven’t yet grasped the extent of Tesla’s braking, or rather its habits, I inevitably apply the brakes earlier. Then the autopilot function is deactivated.
Then the rest is manual, as it should be, so you have to brake firmly. So I thought it would take a lot of getting used to and getting the hang of it.
Impressions after the test drive
So, although it was only a 30-minute test drive, I was able to understand and experience what automated driving is like, even if only slightly. I would like to thank the people at Tesla again for giving me a very good opportunity.
My overall impression is that although this is a very exciting technology, there are still many issues to be addressed, and I felt that it would be difficult to make the decision to leave it completely to automated driving. It will be necessary for users to think carefully about how far they can go with automated driving and how far they want it to go. I thought that the understanding of the users is more important than the technology.
However, there is no doubt that we can expect great progress in the future. I am sure that each manufacturer will put a lot of effort into this field. If I have another chance, I would like to experience the automatic driving of other manufacturers.
And finally: the generic Model 3 will be unveiled later this month!
By the way…
— Tesla (@Tesla) March 15, 2016
That’s what they say. The sedan type Model S and the SUV type Model X are just too expensive! However, the Model 3 is Tesla’s general-purpose model, not cheap by any means, but it’s still considered to be affordable compared to the first two (still rumored to be around $350).