Tesla's Autopilot Isn't Afraid of Snow-Covered Roads, Breezes Through

Autopilot in the snow 1 photo
Photo: YouTube screenshot
The semi-autonomous (or traffic aware cruise control) system in Tesla's vehicles sometimes relies on having a lead car that it can follow, as well as reading all sorts of other information such as the road markings.
One of the questions that have always been casting a shadow over the whole autonomous driving thing was "how will a car be able to see where it's going on a road that's completely covered in snow?" With no visible bearings and a lot of confusing information for the video cameras, the vehicle must find it impossible to know which way to go.

Well, one answer to that question might be that until a solution is found, cars will continue to have a steering wheel and pedals, so whenever this happens, we'll simply have to take over and let the AI rest for a while. Another answer, apparently, is Tesla.

In a video released the other days, KmanAuto shows us his Model S cruising through a snow-covered two-lane road without much difficulty. The car does drive very slowly (he doesn't go over 30 mph, or 48 km/h), but that was probably the same speed a reasonable human driver would have used as well.

The system appears to detect the snow bank on the side of the road, and it presumably uses that for guidance. The author of the clip insists the vehicle wouldn't have probably engaged the Autopilot on a road such as this before the latest update, but he says it fared without any hiccups now.

Still, about midway through the video, you can see a police SUV parked on the other side of the road. Whether by coincidence or not, the clip ends abruptly as KmanAuto decided to take back control since the patrol vehicle was now on his tails. He explains he didn't want the officer to think he was driving drunk, suggesting the AI's performance wasn't exactly smooth. Even so, it does mark a great advancement for the Autopilot system.

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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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