With the growing acceptance of semi-autonomous cars, the question of just how to test such tech had yet to be answered by motoring journalists. Until now, that is, because the team over at Car and Driver have devised a 70-mile test loop designed to track how autonomous tech progresses.
The first car on test was naturally a Tesla — Car and Driver’s own leased Model 3. The EV is spec’d with Autopilot, Navigate on Autopilot and Smart Summon, all of which are part of the Full Self Driving Package. Unfortunately, the test car hasn’t yet received the “Full Self Driving Beta” update, which has been rolled out to a handful of cars. That said, it’ll give us a comparison of the two versions, with a realistic idea of what improvements the new software brings to the table once it’s applied to the test car.
The 70-mile course includes a mixture of roundabouts, cloverleaves, highways and crowded city sections. The car’s Autopilot performed well during the highway run, with there being a lot of challenges such as on and off-ramps, traffic lights, and lane merges. That said, there were still a couple of times where the tester felt the need to take back control. Once, when the car appeared to accelerate towards a yield sign. The other was when the car needed to cross three lanes of traffic to make an exit, where the driver felt it wouldn’t make the changes in time.
However, the limitations of the system started to become apparent on surface streets that had vehicles parked on alongside them. In addition, Autopilot doesn’t operate in instances where painted road lines are either worn or not present.
With some accusing Tesla of pushing the limits when it comes to the description of their self-driving tech, it’s important to keep in mind that these functions are still primarily driver-assisted features. This means the driver should be able to take control of the vehicles at any time and not depend on the system as their automated chauffeur.
We’re looking forward to seeing how other autonomous systems work on the loop, as well as seeing how much better Full Self Driving Beta is when it is finally rolled out to the Car and Driver’s Model 3.