Today while driving on the highway at a moderate 45 mph, the car in front of me suddenly stopped. I had plenty of space in front of me, but I still went through the process. My eyes got wide, my chest felt tight and my foot slammed on the brake. The car audibly alerted me to the hazard with its collision warning which, regardless of how closely I was paying attention, still sounded a fraction of a second before my brain could make my foot stomp. For that, I am thankful. The wonderful thing about these types of safety features is that if you don’t happen to be paying attention, they snap you back to reality. If you are, they may even jolt you to act before your own logical through process would have. Hear alert, stomp brake. Hear bell, salivate.
After I stopped and looked down at the bag that was now upside-down on the floor, traffic started moving again and something dawned on me:
I have not heard that collision warning in a while.
When this feature first went live, I heard it a lot. Most annoyingly, I heard it at the beginning of my one-way, relatively narrow street. Me street curves and cars park on both sides. City living at its finest. But even when traveling 15 miles per hour, the collision warning would sound, presumably, because it was sensing the parked cars.
This particular warning situation went away rather quickly; a matter of weeks at most. I haven’t really paid much attention to that little fact. By now, I’m very well aware of the Tesla’s capabilities for learning and am impressed with it all the time.
Today’s warning, however, made me realize that it isn’t just the correction of collision warning sounding on my street. I’m hearing it less overall which makes me know that like everything else, that part of the system is learning and improving. I also have a wild hypothesis to make about a really important but far less glamorous part of the system. The driver is also learning!
In discussing what happens when lane markings disappear, I claimed that “We learn from it while it learns from us.” Now I’m thinking that sentiment applies to a lot more than just driving with Autopilot features. I am now completely convinced that the Tesla has made me a better driver overall.
The car is so enjoyable that despite it being exceptionally quick, I’m in no rush. The car is so important to me, that I put myself in no questionable situations. The smart safety systems make me aware of the safe distances for things like following and changing lanes and without even knowing it, it has made me a better driver.
Well played, Tesla, well played. Make the safest car ever tested even safer by subliminally making Tesla drivers safer drivers. I’m on to you.