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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Tesla adds assertive self-driving mode with rolling stops


Tesla’s automated driver assist feature has added an assertive driving mode.

The setting will follow other cars more closely, change lanes more frequently, not leave the overtaking lane, and perform rolling stops.

Such driver behaviour by humans is often discouraged by safety groups.

However, it could sometimes be safer for an automated system to be more assertive, like a human driver, rather than being overly cautious, one motor safety expert said.

The three driving profiles – chill, average, and assertive – were first added in Tesla’s October update. That update, however, was quickly pulled because of other issues, but the driving profiles feature has now been restored.

A screenshot of the update was posted to Twitter by David Zipper, a technology writer and visiting fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, and was first reported by The Verge.

It shows the assertive mode described as: “Your Model X will have a smaller follow distance, perform more frequent speed lane changes, will not exit passing lanes and may perform rolling stops.”

Potentially safer

Some social media users have criticised the list of behaviours as being unsafe.

However, Matthew Avery of Thatcham Research in the United Kingdom believes that well-designed driverless systems are theoretically safer than human drivers because they eliminate human error.

As a result, if a more assertive driving style encourages more drivers to use self-driving systems than a more cautious style, there may be a net gain in safety.

“If we want widespread adoption of automation, drivers will expect the vehicle to do and make the decisions that a human driver would do, not some very benign and very safe algorithm,” he explained.

Human drivers frequently come to a halt, such as when one must pull over in a single-lane country road or at a four-way intersection, and one driver must make the first move. Two extremely cautious self-driving cars may both wait for the other to act.

“This is what the manufacturers are currently attempting to learn,” Mr Avery explained.

“So, a degree of being slightly less cautious, if it means that more people use the systems more often because they feel more human-like, that’s a good thing.”

However, he cautioned that it is dependent on how “assertive” the system is, and that it must avoid aggressive driving.

“It’s a fine line between assertive and aggressive,” he says, “but there are definitely situations where automation going through some very basic rules will eventually sort of stop because it just can’t progress.”

“I don’t think we’re there yet. I don’t think the technology is sophisticated enough.”

‘Rolling stops’

Failure to come to a complete stop at a stop line is illegal in many jurisdictions and can result in a failed driving test. Many drivers simply come to a slow crawl – or a rolling stop – as a habit, but this is a dangerous technique.

These appear to be components of Tesla’s average and assertive modes. The description that the car “will not exit passing lanes” appears to be in conflict with some regional regulations.

The Highway Code in the United Kingdom states that motorists should always stay in the left lane unless overtaking, and return to the left when it is safe to do so. Similarly, in the United States, where they drive on the right, several states – but not all – have made leaving the right lane illegal unless overtaking.

It is unclear whether Tesla’s system will account for national or state-based variations in overtaking lane rules, or what the term “rolling stops” means in relation to stop signs.

The company’s media relations department has been disbanded, and it no longer responds to journalist inquiries.

Tesla’s so-called full self-driving technology has come under fire, with crashes and incidents involving the technology receiving widespread media attention.

Despite its name, it is not a self-driving technology, but rather a driver assistance feature similar to other car manufacturers’ lane assist technology. On a five-point scale of automated systems, it is at level two.

Tesla owners must maintain control and alertness of the vehicle at all times, ready to take over in an instant for safety.


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