While Tesla's Autopilot isn't truly "self-driving" yet, what it can actually do is impressive. Yet just how impressive often relies on the statements of owners who may or may not remember everything clearly from a scary incident. Case in point: this recent Model 3 crash from Reddit.
The Tesla Model 3's owner SimSimma02 believes that Autopilot took over and saved his car from a much worse collision when he was rear-ended from behind by a Jeep Cherokee. The initial collision bent the trunk in pretty badly and pushed the car towards a line of slowing traffic in front of it.
This is when Tesla's built-in dashcam recorded an epic save where the Model 3 abruptly swerves into the open lane beside them to avoid causing a bigger pile-up.
If this was Autopilot's emergency lane departure avoidance system kicking in, it's highly impressive. That's what the owner believes happened when he described the incident on Reddit, although he admits that he isn't sure:
This morning I was rear-ended coming to a stop by a lady driving about 40-50 mph. The swerve in the video is not me. I don’t really remember at the moment but I think it was the Tesla that avoided the front collision. Saved me from bigger damage.
SimSimma02 notes that Autopilot wasn't on at the time, but Autopilot also controls a number of collision avoidance systems that are on all the time by default unless you disable them. No one was hurt in the incident, although both vehicles had to be towed away.
uploads from Tesla's built-in dashcam as proof.
However, SimSimma02's uncertainty as to what went on was enough for the r/teslamotors mods to pin the following comment written by user Model 3 Performance as a disclaimer:
Just a friendly reminder to take things with a grain of salt. We (nor the owner) can recall if it was them or the collision avoidance system that swerved. Tesla should implement an overlay (w/wheel icon, speed, activated systems) to help quell this uncertainty. Until then, let's proceed with caution and not assume across the board based on things we know and don't know.
Frankly, that disclaimer has a great idea: Tesla's dashcam feature needs an overlay to show who or what systems are really in control of the car. It's also in Tesla's best interest because if this is really Autopilot at work in these incidents, it's an incredible display of what their Autopilot technology is capable of.
Yet as the dashcam feature is now, even Electrek—a site infamous for allowing its writers to financially
benefit from Tesla's success—felt the need to express some doubt as to whether all of these impressive evasive maneuvers really were Autopilot at work. Autopilot's systems are supposed to be limited in terms of what aggressive steering maneuvers it can make, Electrek writer Fred Lambert explains, but owners are still reporting some impressive Autopilot swerves and saves.
So, it's time to include a data overlay for Tesla dashcam videos showing who or what is in charge of a car's movements at any given moment. Automotive enthusiasts already want to see overlays for various driver inputs on things like lap records so we can analyze every last bit of what's going on there. Why should the on-road crash avoidance behavior of Tesla cars be any different?