Since car bigwigs promised the arrival of autonomous cars in 2017, I check each year to see if they are already here.
Tesla and General Motors (GM) recently grabbed the headlines for their self-driving options, but both manufacturers still insist that a human driver must remain alert and supervise the system in case they need to take back control suddenly.
“What we have in the market today is automated cars not autonomous cars”, Brian Moody, executive editor at Autotrader, told me by phone. “Autonomous car means you get in in the car and the car does everything. We don’t have it yet.”
The Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE), which sets standards for the engineering industry, has defined six levels, ranging from Level 0 (no assistance) to Level 5 (full self-driving in all conditions). A vehicle’s technology must reach all six before it is officially autonomous.
Most new cars feature Level 1 technology, such as lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control.
What are the options?
Tesla Full self-driving (FSD beta) + Autopilot
FSD beta is a system of driving assistance features, like automatically changing lanes and making turns. The software does not make Tesla vehicles fully autonomous. Elon Musk himself said during a 2019 earnings call that Teslas with FSD are “able to drive from one’s house to work, most likely without interventions. So it will still be supervised, but it will be able to drive.”
It has sophisticated features like “smart summon” which lets drivers call their car from a parking spot to come pick them up, using their smartphone and the Tesla app like a remote control.
FSD beta lets you choose from three driving “profiles” that dictate how the car will react to certain situations on the road. Each mode, “Chill,” “Average” and “Assertive,” varies in terms of aggressiveness. The profiles are described as a way “to control behaviors like rolling stops, speed-based lane changes, following distance and yellow light headway.”
The FSD software has also drawn a fair amount of scrutiny and criticism. The California Department of Motor Vehicles and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating different aspects of Tesla’s FSD development and technology.
FSD also has a Beta tier, which includes even more advanced features.
The company’s standard driver assistance package is marketed as Autopilot and comes standard with all its new vehicles (the Model S, X, Y and 3).
GM Ultra Cruise +Super Cruise
The Ultra Cruise feature is designed to be an upgrade over the company’s current Super Cruise system, which allows hands-free driving on highways.
GM describes Ultra Cruise as a “door-to-door” hands free driving system that will allow users to keep their hands off the wheel in 95% of all traffic situations. It will function on most roads, including city streets, subdivision streets and paved rural roads in addition to highways, without the need for pre-mapping.
The exceptions include wherever road construction or other obstructions have …….