Self-Driving Tesla: The Ride of My Life

Self-Driving Tesla: The Ride of My Life

When I finally let a Tesla drive me the other day, everything started out great, but when we got to a main crossing street with traffic, I started squeezing the door handle a little tighter.

So I finally let a Tesla drive me the other day. My brother, who has the Model Y mid-size SUV, bought a one-month full self-driving beta subscription for $200 (full price $15,000) and conveniently waited until his wife was out of town to test it out — because she was too scared to be in the car when he did. I was scared too, but my son was giddy with excitement as if he was about to ride a roller coaster. I chose to sit in the back seat, as I did not think my heart could handle letting the car take the controls on the way to the golf course. And off we went.

Everything started out great: The car easily and smoothly made the first turn around my brother’s curved street in the development where he lives. Then, we got to a main crossing street with traffic, and that’s when I started squeezing the door handle a little tighter. My brother had his hands lightly on the steering wheel, ready to take control back if he needed to. Interestingly, and spookily, the car fully stopped and then crept up like a cat as if it was cautiously peering down the street to see if all was clear. None of us liked the creeping; it left us very uneasy. And with a car coming, rather than risk it and get T-boned, my brother took control. This happened at every cross street; we’ll never know if the Tesla would have made the right decision because we didn’t have the guts to find out. 

At one point, we were approaching railroad tracks, and I had visions of the car not recognizing them whatsoever, speeding up and over the ramp and sending us airborne, just like the two joyriding parking valets in the movie “Ferris Bueller.” As we approached and it was clear the Tesla was not slowing down, I started muttering to myself: “Sloooooooow down, sloooooow down, watch it!” But it turned out the tracks were pretty flat and the car cruised across them no problem. My son had a lot of fun, though, imitating me the rest of the trip: “Sloooooow down … !” Hehe. 

After hacking it around the golf course for five hours, we decided to try to “summon” the car remotely to back out of the parking space itself and pick us up in front of the clubhouse. It did fine, except when it neared us it braked so abruptly it slid on the gravel. Between the nerve-wracking drive to the course to almost having our heads taken off by errant golf balls the entire round, we’d had all the excitement we could handle for the day, so my brother drove the Tesla home in full control.

In the end, I have to say the car did amazingly well and the technology was jaw-dropping. Thinking about my first car, an ’83 Chevy Cavalier, and the Tesla my brother is now driving, I thought: We’ve truly entered the space age. This might have been something shown in a movie 30 years ago that we scoffed at and said, “That’ll never happen!” But it did … and it is. There is still that trust factor, though. I guess I just don’t have the nerves yet to turn the driving over to a robot.

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