The entire automation industry is putting their money – rightfully – on the developments in the car industry. An industry many times bigger than the maritime industry. Tesla – as one of the frontrunners in car automation - makes – at least claims to make - one of the most advanced automated cars today. They introduced extensive driver’s support systems already some 2 years ago (Autopilot 1), and recently launched Autopilot 2 (see www.tesla.com), which should enable driverless driving. Autopilot 1 already offered automated cruise control, automated steering (on highways), and semi-automated overtaking. Autopilot 2 should go far beyond.
Promise versus reality
However, a very recent experience showed what is actually delivered today! From all the promised driver-support functions none actually worked when the car was delivered. Even worse, one of the new features (the triple camera behind the windscreen) did not work at all (which had not been tested, because..... because the software did not work. The camera replacement was not problem, but since the car’s delivery (early January), the software updates have not brought a level of driver support that Autopilot provides. No automated steering on the highway (limited to 50 km/h), no automated overtaking (even not semi-automated), and a very buggy automated cruise control. Automated parking: no. Semi-automated parking: no.
This bad experience brought me to visiting one of Tesla’s competitors, BMW, who just launched the new 5 series, which should provide a major step forward in driver’s assist. So a test drive had to show where they stand compared to for instance Tesla. The experience was even more disappointing. The automated cruise control worked flawless (hey, this was introduced in 2006 already), but the autosteer on the highway was completely useless, if not dangerous – automated overtaking was not yet available, as it was not ready upon the launch. Several times the autosteer function switched off (without any sound, although the icon on the dashboard did change), and the car drove of the highway onto the emergency lane.
A lighting example?
Having driven a Tesla for 3,5 years now, I have experienced the software updates (great), the regression problems (not so great), the buggyness of big updates (not great at all), and the time it takes to resolve those (frustrating, especially when it concerns key functions). We should realise that our industry will eventually benefit from the car industry, but today, I could not say that they are a lighting example in terms of quality, and meeting promises. Far from that!