Phantom Braking – An alternative explanation

Most users of Tesla’s autopilot software have experienced “phantom braking” while driving along the interstate. This often occurs approaching bridges and overpasses.

Conventional Explanations

Conventional wisdom explain phantom braking as ‘precautionary logic’ in Autopilot to avoid hitting a vehicle crossing the road perpendicular to the traveled lane. One of the first Autopilot fatalities occurred in Florida killing its driver Joshua Brown. Autopilot and its driver failed to brake for a tractor trailer crossing a Florida Turnpike. The theory behind phantom braking is that Autopilot confuses an up coming bridge or overpass as a vehicle crossing the lane of traffic so engages emergency brakes.

I have personally experienced this phantom braking. One can anticipate which bridges are most likely to trigger this behavior, if the road dips down just before the bridge, there is a high likelihood phantom braking will occur.

Need for an alternative explanation

One thing that has always puzzled me is that if autopilot has detected what it thinks is a crossing vehicle ahead, why doesn’t it come to a stop or at least a very low speed? The phantom braking is typically very brief and the vehicle may slow by 15-20 miles per hour and then accelerates back to its previous set speed.

Slowing down by 15 Mph on a interstate isn’t emergency braking. It is however annoying as heck, and could prove dangerous if someone is tailgating you.

An Alternative explanation based on speed limits and an overly aggressive braking response to them

Church Street bridge/overpass on I-65 South

Recent experience has lead me to believe that phantom braking can often be explained by a change in speed limits, especially if the change is wildly wrong.

On I-65 south in Nashvile TN just past Charlotte Avenue the road dips down ahead of the Church Street overpass. I have experienced phantom braking several time here. Recently I noticed that during one of the phantom braking events the vehicle displayed a speed limit of 30 instead of 55!! The speed limit reverted to 55 after going under the bridge.

Could it be that due to a GPS error the car thought I had turned onto Church Street, or maybe the ramp to church street and reduced speed suddenly? This would explain why phantom braking is momentary and why the car resumes its set speed a soon as it resets the speed limit to the actual road speed limit.

Autosteer Speed restricted

In a recent video from Bjorn Nyland he interrupts his monologue with the exclamation “Phantom Brake” as his Model 3 brakes suddenly approaching a tunnel. Conventional wisdom would say that this is due to Autopilot mistaking the tunnel approach as a vehicle crossing its path. However if you watch the video closely you notice that the speed limit drops by 10 km/h approaching the tunnel and displays a warning that it has restricted Autosteer speed. Just moments before this warning appears the car display shows that for a brief moment heavy regenerative braking was applied. Unfortunately the video is very blurry, no doubt due to the sudden braking, I also include that image below as well.

Max Regen for just a moment blurs video image

Feel free to watch Bjorn’s video. Advance to 10:12 to see where the Phantom Braking event occurred.

What should Tesla Do?

When speed limits reduce, autopilot should gradually reduce speed for the first second then progressively apply brakes if the speed limit reduction remains true. This would avoid unnecessary aggressive braking on interstates and highways. This can be very disconcerting for drivers and passengers alike.

Tesla should also eliminate speed limits on ramps to avoid GPS position errors triggering an inaccurate speed limit.

Posted in Accident, Autopilot, Autosteer, Electric Car, Opinion, Tesla Model 3 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Cybertruck angular design similar to Straker’s car in UFO?

Tesla Cybertruck

It’s an understatement to refer to the Tesla Cybertruck design as futuristic. Sci-Fi shows over the years have tried to portray what the future might look like. Blade Runnner is cited as inspiration for the Cybertruck. However I reminded of a TV show created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson called UFO. The show was broadcast in the UK in the 1970’s. While the show was low budget with a poor story-line I was reminded of it by the Cybertruck design.

Many visions made in the UFO TV show have now made it into reality. The angular design of the Cybertruck being one of them. Cellular/Car phones is another, re-usable rockets, the International space station, the Space Shuttle and finally a ladies fashion, purple hair.

Straker’s futuristic car with sharp angles and wedge front and back.

Straker’s Car

Commader Straker was in charge of SHADO a secret organization charged with protecting the earth from invading UFO’s. The car itself has sharp angles and wedge shaped front and rear. OK it’s not a truck, but the sharp angles on the side and its wedge like shape are similar to the Cybertruck.

Straker’s car also predicted cellular phones. Straker would conduct matters of global security on his car phone. They didn’t quite get it right, the car phone had a wired handset, however the idea of using a phone on the move was truly visionary.

Straker using his cellular phone before it was invented IRL

Purple Hair

A fashion prediction was made on UFO. The female staff at “Moon Base Alpha” all had purple hair. Hair color has become fashion in the last few years and is accepted as normal. Only the other day I walked into the local UPS store and was greeted by a girl with purple hair. Back in the 1970’s walking around in public with purple hair would have been restricted to Halloween, now you can hold down a job with colored hair.

SHADO Moonbase alpha. Purple haired staff.

Re-usable Rockets

In order to defend earth against UFO attacks space craft would be dispatched from Moon base alpha to intercept UFO’s before they could reach earth.

I find it interesting that Elon Musk has brought two of the futuristic UFO predictions into real life with his two companies, Tesla and SpaceX.

SHADO vehicle that looks much like the space shuttle

 

Re-ussable space craft

 

 

 

 

We are living in a sci-fi TV show from the 70’s.

 

 

 

 

SHADO space station SID, remind you of the international space station?

 

 

 

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Teslaversary

Happy Birthday Car

I took delivery of my Model 3 AWD on 25th October 2018. Here we are one year and 22,067 miles later. The car has been a lot of fun to drive and I will be keeping it for the foreseeable future

What I didn’t get a year ago (but have today)

Rather than do a blow by blow account of what I like and dislike about the car, (you can read my blog to discover what I’ve found over the last year) I thought I’d focus on what features I have today that were NOT delivered when the vehicle was new a year ago. All of these new capabilities have been delivered via over the air updates, the majority of which were free.

1. Dashcam

In the first week of ownership I got an upgrade to Version 9 firmware which included a new feature, Dashcam. Dashcam recorded what one of the forward cameras saw as you drove onto a specially prepared USB drive. A few months later Tesla added the side repeater cameras to this feature.

2. Firmware update activation via mobile app

Within a few weeks of getting my Model 3 we visited England. While in England the Tesla App notified me of a software update which I initiated. The new software was waiting for me when I returned. This would not have been possible the day of delivery but was just a few weeks later.

3.  Sentry Mode

This is one of my favorite features. The car can be set to record activity close to your vehicle while it is parked. Within a few weeks of getting this feature, my Model 3 was hit by a rogue shopping cart. I used the video to obtain compensation from Whole Foods. The staff were amazed I had the video footage but were very willing to help once provided with clear evidence.

4. Blindspot monitoring

This feature shows a red line on the main display when a car was in your blindspot and you indicated the desire to change lanes.

5. Obstacle aware acceleration

My car will now reduce the acceleration if it detects I am about to drive into an object ahead.

6. Dog Mode

Dog mode is an improvement to the “Leave Climate On” feature in the car that displays on the main center screen to people outside your car you have the A/C on and what the current vehicle interior temperature is. While I don’t have a pet or need for this feature when trying it out I did discover the “Leave Climate On” feature I always had. I find the previous feature to be very handy when you pop into a store for a few minutes on a hot or cold day the car is a nice temperature when you return.

7. Autopilot

I did not buy the optional autopilot feature with my initial order. At $5,000 I felt the feature was over priced. The price after delivery was $6,000, which was increased to $7,000. It seemed Autopilot was not in my future. In February 2019 sales of the Model 3 were down markedly and Tesla needed cash. Tesla reduced the cost of Autopilot to $2,000 and removed the Enhanced Autopilot features. I ordered the new Autopilot.

8. Full Self Driving.

Full self driving was also reduced in price in February 2019. I didn’t order it at first, but when Tesla announced they planed to increase the price to pre discount levels, I chose to purchase it for $3,000. This gave access to all the autonomous features and any future features yet to be released. I gained Navigate on Autopilot and Summon. In addition the purchase of FSD ensures the version 3 of the self driving hardware will be made available at no extra cost.

9. Smart Summon

The ability to summon a car across a parking lot was added. Its somewhat of a party trick with few practical uses in its bera form. One day it should be a handy feature.

10. Entertainment – Netfilx, Youtube, Hulu and Spotify

With version 10 of Tesla firmware came a slew of new features. The entertainment features may seem incidental, however once you experience videos playing with the benefit of the cinematic sound you realize its a truly amazing experience. The video features only work when you are stopped and in park.

11. Rear camera support for Dashcam and Sentry Mode.

12. Arcade Games

Several arcade games have been added to the UI. I’m not a gamer so won’t pass judgement.

13. Fart

Yep. My car can make fart noises. Whoopie doo.

14. Romance Mode

The car display can be turned into a hot crackling fire animation.

15 Lane Departure Avoidance

If I start to drift out of my lane, the car will vibrate the steering wheel and nudge me back into my lane.  Once you get used to this feature you realize how valuable it is, its is an antidote to driver distraction or loss of focus for a moment.

16. Feeling lucky and I’m Hungry

The navigation system will now take me to places I may not know or have visited before.

17. Caroke

Karoke in your car. Nuf said.

18. A web browser that works.

Tesla upgraded the web browser to use Chrome and it works very well. You can even use the browser while you drive (Shhhhhh…)

19. 5% more power

Thanks to firmware improvements, the car is now 5% more powerful reducing 0-60 times from 4.5 seconds to 4.2.

20. Joe Mode

Audible alerts can be quite loud and intrusive. Joe Mode allows for you to cut the volume of alerts by half.

21. Vent

I can now vent my windows using a feature on the Tesla App. I can do this while I am locking the car or from anywhere in the world afterwards. The vent feature also allows me to close all 4 windows together.

22. Geo Location Mirror folding

Based on my location, I can have the car automatically fold mirrors. I do so at home, at the ATM, Maildrop at the post office.

23. CHAdeMO adapter support

For over a year after release the Model 3 could not be used at CHAdeMO rapid chargers. Now it can. I got the adapter as soon as it was available. This has extended my ability to charge my vehicle in more remote locations where Supercharger stations are rare.

24. Driving profile associated with phone keys

Rather than have to select a driver profile on the main screen profiles can now be tied to specific phone keys so the seat and steering wheel are adjusted automatically.

25. Faster Supercharging

When I bought the car the fastest it would charge was 120 kWh, now with V2 chargers I can charge up to 150 kWh and 250 kWh with a  V3 supercharger,  we should get V3 Superchargers in Nashville in the next few weeks 🙂

Twenty Five and counting

Yep there are a lot of new features available to me today that were not present on the day of delivery exactly one year ago. No other car maker provides so much so quickly, and the majority of it is for free. I’ll add more as I remember them. There are so many its quite a job to  recall them all, especially since they have become part of the day to day driving experience.

Other Improvements

While not new, many things have improved.

Automatic Windscreen wipers comes to mind. Initially these would fail to activate during heavy downpours or the start of gentle rain.  Today the feature works very well.

Automatic high beams have also seem improvements, but Tesla still have some work to do here.

How about your car?

How many new or improved features did you get this past you in your current vehicle? Let me guess, none.

Posted in Dashcam, Electric Car, Level 3 EV Charger, Sentry Mode, Tesla Model 3 | Leave a comment

Fiat 500e spotted in Nashville

FIAT 500e spotted in Nashville TN

The Fiat 500e is very much a compliance car and as such is rarely seen outside of the CARB states it is sold in. Sergio Marchione, former CEO of Fiat/Chrysler is famous for telling prospective customers to not buy his electric 500e because he lost money on each unit sold.

Any Fiat 500e’s found outside of the states it was sold in have been specially transported. The owner takes on some risk that an issue with the electric drive-train may need repair in a select few dealers in CARB states involving expensive shipping to effect a repair.

500e Charging at 1100 Charlotte Ave, Nashville

This 500e was spotted in the HCA building at 1100 Charlotte Pike. Many rare EV’s are often spotted here, HCA employees apparently favor unique EV’s. Its great to see cars like the 500e in person.

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Electrify America Fail – Strike Two

Cable too short to even reach parking bay.

Recently I reported an Electrify America station that was not operational for CHAdeMO users. Today I went by the latest Electrify America site at WalMart in Franklin TN which was just brought into service on October 11th.

The configuration of the single CHAdeMO outlet is such that it is not possible to get a charge with a Tesla vehicile. It will be difficult, maybe impossible, for a Nissan LEAF to get a charger here unles it drives in at a 45 degre angle across the parking bay. The cable will not reach the edge of the parking bay.

It seems to me the charging equipment should be located at the head of the charging bay to make it possible to plug a vehcile in. This is especially necessary in this case since the parking bay is offset from the kerb more than normal to accomodate disabled users.Electrify America is funded by a $2Billion fudn as erquired to compensate for VW’s Dieselgate settlement with the US government agencies. I perceive its easy come easy go since the funds are guaranteed.

Cable won’t reach even if you park in hatched area.

Posted in CHAdeMO, Electric Car, Electrify America, Level 3 EV Charger, Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model 3 | Leave a comment

Calling all Tesla Drivers to Chattanooga for Alpine Drive

Train of Tesla’s

Tesla owners in Tennessee and all points beyond are invited to come and enjoy an Alpine Drive November 15-16, 2019 in Chattanooga Tennessee.

Tesla Bros and local Tennessee Tesla enthusiasts have organized  a fun Hike, Drive and Eat event. Home of the Chattanooga choo choo Chattanooga will see a different type of train, a train of electric vehicles driving along the ridge by Lookout mountain.

Tennessee Aquarium

We will all eat inside the Tennessee Aquarium which has been booked exclusively for this outing. The Aquarium is a great place to bring a family with many interesting things to see and do. Tickets include admission to the Aquarium and a catered dinner.

It’s gonna be great. Get your tickets here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Model 3 version 10 software better than a cinema

Tesla V10 Entertainment Choices

As a pragmatist I never thought I’d say the entertainment options in the Tesla Model 3 are truly amazing. Mind boggling amazing. The sound system in the Model 3 is excellent and the 15″ center screen crisp and clear. Starts stream quickly and without skipping. Sit in your car in the dark, turn on a show and the experience is actually better than the cinema. You get to watch what you want and don’t have anyone checking email or chatting close by, no trailers for shows you have no intention of watching.  No overpriced popcorn either. The experience is good enough to kill off cinemas altogether if enough people get a Model 3.

Unbelievable video and sound quality in the Model 3.

Entertainment options are Netflix, YouTube and Hulu. The app experience is almost identical to the web apps for these streaming services.

If a test drive isn’t enough to convince you to buy a  Model 3, the entertainment system most probably will convince you.

I bought the car to drive, now I have a mobile entertainment center. I’m reminded of what Elon Musk said during an interview with Ryan McCaffrey.

“It’s not exactly a car, it’s actually a thing to maximize enjoyment. It’s maximum fun.”
– Elon Musk –  during interview with Ryan McCaffrey July 2019.

Posted in Electric Car, Opinion, Review, Tesla Model 3, Test Drive | Leave a comment