The Tesla driver took a road trip of 6,392 miles with autopilot, FSD

  • Tesla driver Tim Heckman drove 6,392 miles primarily using Autopilot and full self-driving.
  • He said the autopilot has gotten “worse” over the years and that the FSD was “exceptionally bad outside of California.”
  • But the Tesla driver said the software has been a “lifesaver” when it comes to long road trips.

One Tesla owner took a 6,392-mile road trip using primarily Tesla Autopilot and Full Self-Driving (FSD) — and said that while the software was a “lifesaver,” there were some hiccups along the way.

In December, Tim Heckman drove a Model S Plaid from Los Angeles to Pennsylvania and back, using the autonomous software for 99% of the journey, an experience he documented on Twitter.

Heckman, a site reliability engineer, told Insider that while the autonomous software proved useful during his journey, it also made for a “stressful drive” at times, describing incidents where the Tech Phantom slowed down and struggled to obey the speed limit, correct following distances, or stay in the lane.

Advantages and disadvantages of autonomous driving

While Autopilot is driver assistance software built into all Teslas and designed for highway driving, FSD is a beta add-on that can work in urban environments and is designed to change lanes, recognize stop signs and lights, as well as park.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that the software will eventually be able to operate completely on its own and will be safer than human drivers, but the beta program still requires a licensed driver to monitor it at all times.

Tesla Model S checkered sedan

Tesla Model S Plaid.


Heckman told Insider that the software sometimes detected cars on the screen that weren’t there or had trouble identifying lane markings when there was salt on the road.

“It’s kind of like driving with a 15- or 16-year-old driver sometimes,” Heckman said of using FSD on city streets outside of California. “It’s weird jerky maneuvers. It stops or enters a turn lane too early. In a way, it’s just a general lack of awareness of the environment.”

On the other hand, the Tesla owner said Autopilot was a “lifesaver” on highways, adding that while he had to disconnect the FSD software on several occasions, Autopilot only disconnected once when a car in front of him on the highway slammed on his brakes.

“It can be a huge cognitive relief. Long trips can take a mental toll,” Heckman said, noting that he has used Autopilot on previous road trips and found he could drive on without getting tired.

The software has also helped him avoid collisions on the highway in the past.

“I realize sometimes I tune out when I drive,” Heckman said “This [software] can amplify that, but I know that if I show up, at least I know that the vehicle is supporting me.”

Getting “worse”, not better

IN His Twitter thread of the experience, Heckman wrote that Autopilot was “worse” than when he bought his first Tesla in 2019 and FSD was “exceptionally bad outside of California.”

Hedges & Company, a digital marketing firm for automakers, found in an analysis of over 175 million car owners in 2019 that the majority of Tesla owners live in California – meaning the AI ​​software could have more opportunities to learn from California roads.

Ultimately, Heckman said he couldn’t see himself buying a non-Tesla electric car — at least not until the charging network could catch up with Tesla — but he wished the automaker would rely on LiDAR, radar sensors that can help vehicles detect nearby objects.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk speaks to the media next to his Model S in Hong Kong on January 25, 2016.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk speaks to the media next to a Model S in Hong Kong on January 25, 2016.

Nora Tam/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Musk has spoken out against the expensive hardware in the past and is said to have demanded cameras above radar because he wants the autonomous software to act like human eyes. The car company stopped installing LiDAR in its cars in 2021.

Heckman is not the first person to describe problems with Tesla’s Autopilot or FSD add-ons. Many FSD testers have posted videos showing bugs in the software. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Autopilot and its potential connection to several crashes.

“At the end of the day, I think these things have tremendous potential,” Heckman wrote on Twitter. “But at this point there needs to be focus and good execution, while not causing regressions in the experience, especially on features that affect your safety and the safety of others on the road.”

Do you drive a Tesla or have some insight to share? Contact the reporter from a non-job email at [email protected]

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