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Watch This Tesla Drive Itself
Image: John Bates

Just as you should avoid the hospital in July (when new-fledged M.D.s begin to really learn their craft), so now may be a good time to give wide berth to any Tesla Model S you may see. Today, Tesla Motors finally uploaded its Autopilot software to owners, and many of them are experimenting with it on the road: "Look, Ma! No hands!"

Plenty of videos are up, mostly from enthusiasts. Here’s a cute one from John Bates, who lists himself on Twitter as a tech executive and a Tesla owner:

As the company said it would do a few months ago, it has put in several constraints to protect the people in the car from overconfidence. The car changes lanes only after Bates hits the turn indicator, and it requires him to put his hands on the wheel every 10 seconds. That last trick was introduced in the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S Class, the first commercial car that could say (if it could talk) that it drove itself. 

Other constraints are less obvious because the day is warm and sunny. Tesla’s Autopilot won’t engage at all unless it can perceive lane markings, something it often would not be able to do under snowy conditions. And it may not be able to judge, ahead of time, whether an object by the side of the road is a fire hydrant or a little boy who might be about to dart into traffic. 

It’s a technical tour de force, but it’s also a beta test. We should find out whether it passed that test in a few months.

The Conversation (0)

Chinese Joint Venture Will Begin Mass-Producing an Autonomous Electric Car

With the Robo-01, Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely aim for a fully self-driving car

4 min read
A black car sits against a white backdrop decorated with Chinese writing. The car’s doors are open, like a butterfly’s wings. Two charging stations are on the car’s left; two men stand on the right.

The Robo-01 autonomous electric car shows off its butterfly doors at a reveal to the media in Beijing, in June 2022.

Tingshu Wang/Reuters/Alamy

In October, a startup called Jidu Automotive, backed by Chinese AI giant Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely, officially released an autonomous electric car, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition. In 2023, the car will go on sale.

At roughly US $55,000, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition is a limited edition, cobranded with China’s Lunar Exploration Project. It has two lidars, a 5-millimeter-wave radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 12 high-definition cameras. It is the first vehicle to offer on-board, AI-assisted voice recognition, with voice response speeds within 700 milliseconds, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8295 chip.

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