|On Route 80 west in northern New Jersey on Saturday, I briefly engaged the autonomous-driving features of my Tesla Model S, allowing pedal-free and hands-free driving. But a recent New York Times article erred on how the system works.|
By VICTOR E. SASSON
New York Times reporter Aaron M. Kessler made two big errors in reporting on high-speed autonomous driving in the Tesla Model S, and one of them could land owners off the road.
In an Oct. 15 article in the paper's Wheels newsletter, Kessler said a software update gave owners Autopilot, "a semi-autonomous feature that allows hands-free, pedal-free driving on the highway under certain conditions."
But the business-automotive writer made no mention of Autosteer, the other shoe that has to drop for the car to "drive us, rather than the other way around," as Kessler put it.
I had the same incomplete understanding on Oct. 16, when I first tried Autopilot on Route 80 west, near my home in northern New Jersey.
I blame some of that on an Oct. 15 email from Tesla -- "Your Autopilot has arrived" -- that didn't fully explain how to engage Autopilot and Autosteer.
After reading the email and Tesla's blog, I asked my wife to accompany me on our first attempt on Route 80, and figured pulling back on the cruise-control stalk would engage the self-driving functions.
I soon found out that wasn't enough, as my Model S didn't start turning as we entered a curve on the highway. I grabbed the wheel.
I turned around in Paterson, and headed for the Tesla dealer on Route 17 in Paramus, where one of the product specialists accompanied me on my second attempt.
I was told I had to pull back once on the cruise-control stalk to engage Autopilot and a second time to engage Autosteer, lighting up speedometer and steering-wheels symbols that flank the digital speed display.
That's not the case.
Tesla Version 7 software with self-driving functions is free, but only to owners who paid for an option called Autopilot Convenience Features when they ordered their car ($2,500 or $3,000 after delivery).
When I ordered my 2015 Tesla Model S 60 early this year, the option was called Tech Package with Autopilot and cost $4,250.
Kessler also didn't mention Tesla's Autopark, which scans for a parking space, alerts you when one is available and parallel parks on your command.