Tesla’s latest Version 8.0 of Autopilot has done a complete 180 when it comes to the core technology that powers its driving-assist features. Where the former 7.0 version relied primarily on the front-facing camera to detect obstacles, 8.0 has swapped focus to the onboard radar, making it the main source for Autopilot input. Let that sink in a moment: this very advanced suite of drivers’ assistance features that we’ve all come to trust to propel and Autosteer our cars down the highway has fundamentally changed. One part of me wanted to mentally start over again using Autopilot cautiously and not really trusting that it would do the right thing. The other part of me figured that if Tesla decided to change course, the new tech must be at least as safe and reliable as before.
My very first use of Autopilot features after the 8.0 update was on my usual stop-and-go traffic commute, on the same highway I always take. The car performed as expected and I really had nothing to note. But as luck would have it, we got the update mere days before embarking on our longest Tesla road trip to date. 8 days, 21 Superchargers and 2100 miles. I estimate that 1,750 of those miles were done using Autopilot, with my husband using it for 90% of his drive, and me using it for 60% of the time while I was behind the wheel of our Model S.
Here is what I’ve noticed:
- Autosteer: The same dark, rainy conditions where I’ve previously experienced Autosteer to be unavailable are still present. I agree, these aren’t ideal for use, so no harm in being unavailable.
- Car offsets in lane: Exactly as described in Tesla’s 8.0 blog update, the car would move over to hug the far side of its lane when approaching another vehicle in the opposite adjacent lane, if that vehicle was either too close to your side or so large as to take up a lot of space. We saw this several times on our trip, mostly with tractor trailers.
- Wheel nag more prominent. Very true. The wheel nag now includes a pretty white frame around the entire instrument panel and the ‘red hands of death‘. I went two whole days of driving without the nag even once. The other driver, not so much.
- Approximately 200 small enhancements that aren’t worth a bullet point. This was the ending bullet on Tesla’s blog update and it sort of tickled me when I first read it. Thinking more now, I see the point. Autopilot technology is so extremely complex and intelligent, with so many moving parts and algorithms that it’s needless for an owner such as myself to even be concerned with knowing it all.
Though a recent poll suggests that Americans still aren’t sure if they’re ready for self-driving technology, hopping behind the wheel of a Tesla with driver-assist features is a good starting point. Autopilot continues to improve and the company’s latest 8.0 is no different. It’s smooth and makes long distance driving a heck of a lot more enjoyable.
Again, everything has changed, while nothing really has. The whole way it works was turned on it’s ear, yet the outcome of using the system is about the same. The car sees two cars ahead and sometimes even three, instead of one in 7.0, and the instrument panel shows as much. That visual change took exactly zero getting used to. I thought the whole system would take some getting used to, some learning curve or at the very least, some trust curve. Nope. What I’ve actually found is that the system is just as reliable as before so keep on using your Autopilot, keep on logging miles, keep on contributing to fleet learning, and keep on helping Tesla to refine the most technologically advanced car ever.
The below video was intended to describe the differences in using Autopilot before and after the 8.0 upgrade.