Lifestyle

Life after my Tesla 30 day Autopilot Trial ends: Where do I go from here?

Tesla-Autopilot-dashboard-highway

As I lament the end of my 30 day trial of Autopilot, I thought a summary of the features would be helpful to those not yet familiar with the technology.

I bought my Tesla S70D in November of last year as an inventory model with nearly every feature I would have selected on line including the color. At the time, all of the hardware for Autopilot was included in the build but the software had not been installed.

I travel around New England for my work and had an opportunity to show a business associate, who happens to be a big “car guy” from Dallas Texas my new Tesla. I alerted him that I didn’t have the famous Autopilot that he had been watching in videos on line, but the car was still beautiful and thrilling to drive. I picked him up at the airport late and headed to the hotel before customer visits the next day. When we came out to the car in the morning, there it was! A software download overnight giving me a 30 day trial of Autopilot! The timing couldn’t have been better!

Experiencing Tesla's 30 Autopilot Trial on the highway

First thing we did, stood in the parking lot and summoned the car out of the spot. After all, there’s no reason to ding your car doors for the very first time when you can open them wide in a place just 15 feet back from where you parked!

Next, we got on the highway and pulled the cruise control stalk one time. I felt the accelerator hold where we were so I took my foot off and relaxed a bit. Slowly creeping up on the car in front of us, the dash showed me the silhouette of the car in front getting closer. I’d have to push the stalk down to reduce my speed in the past, but as we got within 2 car lengths, I saw the MPH start to go down as we tracked perfectly behind the next car at a constant distance. Cool! Traffic aware cruise control! When the guy in front slows down, you slow down without a thought and even if he comes to a stop, when he takes off, you take off maintaining the set car length distance.

Next, pull back on the stalk twice. The steering wheel goes stiff and takes over keeping the car right in the middle of the lane. With decent lane lines on both sides, the steering was better than I would have been on my own, right down the center. Even in bends in the road, the vision system looks far enough ahead to anticipate the turn and keep you right in the center of the lane.

We got to our first appointment and entered the parking lot. I drove slowly by a spot and not seeing any others close by I put the car in reverse and to my surprise, the center screen showed the spot on my left and a button to “Auto Park” I pushed the button and the car started backing up, then the steering wheel started turning very fast on its own to back me into the spot. We were a little close to the lane before starting the process so we couldn’t quite make it in the first go, but no intervention necessary, the car went into drive, wheel turned the opposite way, we pulled forward a bit, then continued backing right in the middle of the spot. Perfect!

Getting the hang of Autopilot on the highway, I decided to try it out long distance for my trip from Central Connecticut all the way to Boston. I didn’t need to touch the wheel, accelerator or break except when we were exiting the Mass pike. Even in stop and go traffic on Storrow Drive, the car stayed in Autopilot and performed flawlessly.

After dropping my associate off at the airport, I travelled the rest of the way home to Southern New Hampshire again “no hands, no feet”! I did keep a finger on the wheel just in case, but I got confident enough with the system that I know I could have let go all together. The car does, however remind you to keep a hand on the wheel with a notification on the dash and by turning the radio volume all the way down until you grab the wheel.

The next day, I went back to Boston with my wife to pick up my daughter at the train. We were to park outside the train station and wait for her to arrive. Slowly pulling up the street, we passed an open parking spot (actually a fire hydrant location, there’s no open parking spots in Boston!) but we’d be sitting in the car so no problem. Again, as soon as I put the car in reverse, the parallel spot showed up on the center screen with a button to auto park. Again, the car took over turning the wheel and reversing right into the spot with perfection. My wife told me to pull out and do it again so she could video this time!!!

Over the weekend, it was time to wash the Tesla. I did a thorough job on the exterior and vacuumed and wiped all surfaces on the interior. Now I’ve got to put the car in the garage, but, I just cleaned everything and if I get in the car, I’ll probably drag in and deposit sand or small pebbles on the rug! No worries! Autopilot allows you to stand along the side of your car, and using the key fob, park it in the garage and close the garage door with one tap of the fob! Amazing!

Now, I’m not that compulsive about my rugs, so I’ll probably not need to use the “Auto park in my garage” feature, and I’m still parking at the far end of parking lots away from other potential dings so I have no problem opening my doors, but if I had to park in a very tight spot, Autopark will be an awesome feature to have.

Auburn Massachusetts Supercharger

Auburn Massachusetts Supercharger

For the most part, my daily travel is a few miles from home to the office on town roads but frequently I am on an extended road trip somewhere in New England. I’ve gotten over the range anxiety with a number of strategically placed Supercharger stations available and having used Plug share in a pinch a couple times. I definitely see using Autopilot on the highway allowing me to relax a bit but also keep me safer on the trip than if I were driving myself!

Do I take the plunge and plunk down $3k to keep this going or not? I still have a few days left to figure it out. Maybe Elon will just “forget to turn it off”?

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