Tesla Autopilot ‘Mad Max’ mode gets torture tested in LA traffic

[Credit: Joey Gil/YouTube]

Tesla’s “Mad Max” mode for Navigate on Autopilot might be capable of suggesting assertive lane changes, but when it’s faced with some of America’s most aggressive drivers, the driver-assist system still seems to be far too civilized and polite. This was shown recently in a torture test featuring a Tesla Model 3 in the middle of LA traffic.

When Elon Musk first teased Mad Max mode as a lane change setting for Autopilot, he noted that Tesla was initially thinking of adding an even more aggressive lane change setting called “LA Freeway.” Poking fun at the behavior of motorists in the area, Musk lightly stated that the “LA Freeway” speed based lane change setting was abandoned because it was simply “too loco.” A video depicting Mad Max mode’s behavior in actual LA traffic all but proves Elon Musk’s point.

Tesla Model 3 owner Joey Gil opted to test how his electric car behaved and reacted to LA traffic with Mad Max mode enabled. As could be seen in the Model 3 owner’s video, Navigate on Autopilot does suggest rather assertive lane changes. Compared to other drivers in LA traffic, though Autopilot was noticeably tame in comparison. Since the Mad Max setting still initiates lane changes only when there is a safe distance from another vehicle, the Model 3 ended up being cut off repeatedly by other motorists. This was particularly evident when the Model 3 owner was in a section of an interchange.

Tesla’s focus on safety is particularly evident in the current behavior of Navigate on Autopilot’s Mad Max mode. While Autopilot is a convenience feature, after all, it is also one of the electric cars’ most notable safety systems. This was outlined recently by the company’s findings in its Vehicle Safety Report for Q3, which revealed that one accident or crash-like event is registered by the company for every 3.34 million miles driven while Autopilot is engaged. Without Autopilot engaged, Tesla recorded one accident or crash-like event for every 1.92 million miles driven.

That said, it should also be noted that both Navigate on Autopilot and Mad Max mode are still in their first iterations. Thus, both features would likely be more refined with the company’s upcoming software updates. With this in mind, an improved Mad Max mode that can handle LA traffic in an assertive and safe manner would likely be rolled out in the future. Considering that Tesla is still in the process of refining Navigate on Autopilot, though, the current iteration of Mad Max mode seems to be just right.

Ultimately, Navigate on Autopilot and Mad Max mode could be an excellent way for Tesla to refine the first features of its Full Self-Driving suite, which the electric car maker appears to be focusing on with the development of its homegrown silicon chip. During the third quarter earnings call, Tesla’s Director of AI Andrej Karpathy mentioned that the rollout of Hardware 3, which is expected to begin in 2019, should result in notable improvements for Autopilot.

“The team is incredibly excited about the upcoming upgrade for the Autopilot computer. This upgrade allows us to not just run the current neural networks faster. But more importantly, it will allow us to deploy much larger, computationally more expensive networks to the fleet. We are currently at a place where we’ve trained large neural networks that work very well, but we are not able to deploy them to the fleet due to computational constraints,” he said.

Watch Autopilot in Mad Max mode get torture tested in LA traffic in the video below.

Tesla Autopilot ‘Mad Max’ mode gets torture tested in LA traffic
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