After a brief kerfuffle on Sunday going from software version whatever up to 2021.36.5.2 and then down to 2021.36.5.1, the Model 3 is now on 2021.36.5.3 and I can offer some initial impressions of its capabilities from observing it briefly driving around my town.

There are a lot of style differences between how it drives (or is it “they?"1) and how I would drive in the same situation, so let’s focus on the big problem areas so far:

  • Hugging the middle on unmarked roads. This is not cool. It needs to assume all unmarked roads are bidirectional unless it knows explicitly otherwise. Just pretend there’s an invisible yellow line down the middle of the road. This should be easy enough to calculate.
  • The same goes for the number of assumed lanes in unmarked one-way sections, such as at an intersection (in this case, when divided by a brief median). The width of the road clearly indicates to human drivers that there is room for a car to turn left and right at the same time, even given no painted markings, but this version of FSD takes its half down the middle. This was quite embarrasing when I looked behind me and saw a car waiting to turn left and a car waiting to turn right, and neither could pull forward because of me.
  • Turning left across a simple intersection where cross traffic had stop signs, the car turned left too early and then abruptly stopped when it noticed, “hey, there’s a car there at the stop sign now.” I might have made a broad left like that, but the human thing to do is to keep your momentum and adjust course accordingly, not to abruptly stop in the middle of a left turn in the middle of an intersection. Perhaps it needs to look ahead a little bit more…. Are there cameras that cover those areas?
  • It needs to notice when the merge/acceleration lane is coming to an end; don’t ride it past the solid white lines straight off the road, which I assume it was going to do before I intervened.
  • Changing lanes in or near an intersection is a no-no. I had to put a stop to this quickly. Perhaps the diverging diamond confused the navigation. I was in the #1 lane and it wanted to change lanes to the right when there was a planned left turn only a few hundred feed ahead.
  • Coming to a complete stop and signalling before entering a roundabout? Really?

I have not tested this software on limited-access freeways yet, which I hope will be an improvement over Autopilot.

Impressive behavior:

  • Acceleration out of stops (signs & signalized intersections).
  • Deceleration into stops (signs & signalized intersections).
  • Lane change speed when manually initiated.
  • Unprotected left turn across oncoming traffic (through divided median, no cross traffic).
  • Protected left through signalized intersection.
  • Prodigious use of turn signals.
  • Visualizations of its environmental perception and planned course of action.

It’s neat to see this functionality finally start to be incorporated into the vehicle and I look forward to watching it progress.

  1. Is this not funny if you understand the nature of how machine learning algothims are trained on large datasets? ↩︎