The magic happens. The steering wheel moves by itself. The speed automatically tunes to the road we are following. The central CPU is now processing a gigantic amount of data collected from the Sat Nav, Google Maps, the radar and the cameras.
And it’s all real time. I arrive at the road crossing and I am tempted to apply the brakes but it’s not necessary.
The Tesla slows down, it coasts into the right lane, switches on the left indicator and stops, waiting for the green light. I’ve barely touched the steering wheel or the pedal - and I am liking it
Tesla began installing the first phase of new Autopilot features in its vehicles (equipped with second-generation Autopilot) late last year, with chief executive Elon Musk announcing Tesla cars will be able to drive themselves completely by the end of 2017. The new vehicles house eight cameras with 360-degree visibility and 250m of range as well as a sensor that can detect hard or soft objects at almost twice the distance of its predecessors.
The full self-driving system, which will include features of Tesla’s Enhanced Autopilot, will even use all eight cameras to find the best route to your destination. If you haven’t entered a destination, it will check your calendar and take you to your anticipated address.
While Tesla’s Enhanced Autopilot has not yet received regulatory approval, owners can enjoy a host of advanced features being rolled out until then.
And a Tesla is by all means enjoyable. As I enter the highway, it knows how many cars are coming up from behind, how many are ahead and what speed they are on. It changes lanes at the right time and sets the ideal speed.
What is more fascinating is it all happens in utter silence. The Tesla is electric, so the only noise I hear comes from the air brushing against its body. Though it feels a little surreal at first, we get used to it very quickly. But I still want to take charge.
So we select the “Ludicrous” mode and hit the pedal. What happens? The Tesla takes me to 100km/h in 2.4 seconds with a ferocity fit for race cars. I am overwhelmed by its performance. The electric motor delivers 100% of its torque from zero rpm.
Furthermore, the P100D behaves like most modern four doors saloons with the expected under-steer entering corners, a balanced behaviour mid corner and a beautiful corner exit supported by the enormous available torque.
One of its issues, however, is the charging of its battery. While it has a range of around 500 km with one full battery charge (in line with a fuel engine car), the charging is slow compared to normal re-fuelling, in addition to charging stations being quite limited in the UAE.
Overall, some may say an electric, self-driving car is against the desires of motors enthusiasts, who want to take charge of the vehicles.
But while the characters of a modern, traditional engine can be more exhilarating, Tesla has succeeded in creating an everyday driving concept that may result in less pollution and more importantly, fewer accidents.
And that is just as important, if not more so, than an enjoyable ride.
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