Tesla adds Chill and Assertive Self-driving Modes


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 behavior 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 features have 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: “You perform more frequent speed lane changes, will not exit passing lanes and may perform rolling stops.”

The list of behaviors has been criticized by some on social media as being less safe.

But Matthew Avery, from the UK’s Thatcham Research, said that well-designed driverless systems are theoretically safer than human drivers because they eliminate human error.

As such, if a more assertive driving style encourages more drivers to take up self-driving systems than a very cautious style would, that could be a net gain for safety.

It is not, despite its name, a self-driving technology, but is rather considered a driver assistance feature similar to other car-makers lane assist technology. It is at level two on a five-point scale of automated systems.

“If we want widespread adoption of automation, drivers are going to expect the vehicle to do and make the decision that you would do as a human driver, not some very begin and very safe algorithm,” he explained.

Human drivers come to an impasse regularly, such as when one has to pull over in a single-lane country road or at a four-way intersection, and one driver must make the move first.

Tesla’s so-called full Self-driving has been subject to much scrutiny, with crashes and incidents involving the technology, gaining widespread media coverage.

It is not clear if Tesla’s system will account for national or state-based variations in the rules about staying in the overtaking lanes, or what the term rolling stops means in relation to stop signs.

Tesla owner must remain in control of the vehicle and alert at all times, ready to take over in an instant for safety.

These appear to be part of both Tesla’s average and assertive modes. The description that the car “will not exist passing lanes” also seems to contradict some regional rules.

In many jurisdictions, failing to come to a complete halt at a stop line is illegal, and can result in someone failing their driving test. As a habit, many drivers simply come to a slow crawl – or a rolling stop – instead, but it is considered a dangerous technique.

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