Thursday, November 24, 2022

Caution: self-driving Teslas in downtown Toronto

Speaking of Elon Musk, or at least Tesla, Toronto Tesla drivers have noticed recently that full self driving (FSD) mode is finally available after the company quietly removed a "geofence" disallowing its use in downtown Toronto and updated the car's software. The reason for the digital block apparently was that, as Musk himself puts it, "streetcars are not yet handled well by FSD". And, of course, there are streetcars all over downtown Toronto (and further afield, for that matter).

So now, suddenly, Tesla's FSD handles streetcars well? In my experience, many human drivers don't handle streetcars well, and streetcar users often take their lives in their hands when stepping onto the street, especially during rush hour. Would you trust a slightly smart camera to deal with this complex situation? Would you even trust it to navigate the jungle of construction work, cyclists, panhandlers, boy racers and potholes that is driving in downtown Toronto these days?

Personally, I'm not sure what the big attraction of autonomous cars is. Apparently, it's not really full self driving anyway. Drivers are required to keep a hand on the wheel in order to take control instantaneously if needed. The car beeps at you every 45 seconds if it doesn't detect a hand on the wheel, and will disengage FSD completely after multiple failures to do so. Drivers need to have a "driving score" (whatever that might be) of at least 80 in order to be allowed to use it.

The Ontario Safety League is certainly not convinced that the cars are safe in autonomous mode. I, for one, will be extra wary of Teslas in downtown Toronto henceforth.

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