Alex Roy First to Drive Cross Country Using Tesla Autopilot

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Cross-country endurance driver Alex Roy is a passionate supporter of electric cars and autonomous driving technology. Just one day after Tesla released it Version 7.0 software upgrade — the one that enables the Tesla Autopilot suite of self driving systems — Alex set off from California to drive to New York using Autosteer as much as possible.

Along with co-drivers Carl Reese and Deena Mastracci, he completed the journey in 57 hours, 48 minutes. That may not seem like such a big deal. After all, Roy is the same fellow who slammed across the country in just over 31 hours in 2006. His car back then was a specially modified BMW M5 sedan that was equipped with multiple scanners, radios and traffic tracking devices to help him avoid conversations with members of the constabulary along the way. In the end, the dour people at Guiness World Records refused to certify his record, claiming they had reason to believe Roy might have broken any number of laws along the way.

According to CNET, this crossing was not intended to evade the minions of the law but rather to demonstrate that the a Telsa with Autosteer could complete a transcontinental journey safely with little human intervention. The car used is the same one Carl and Deena had used to establish their own record for spending the least amount of time recharging while crossing the country in a Tesla Model S.

The trio got a special tribute from Elon Musk for their efforts.

Besides providing a test for the Tesla autopilot autonomous driving software, the trip also allowed Roy and company to demonstrate that the network of SuperCharger locations located along America’s major highways was more than up to the task of completing a long distance trip like this one.

The latest Tesla autopilot software has only been available for a week, but already there are reports from some drivers about glitches in the system. One person complained that his Model S wanted to get off the highway at every exit if he was driving in the right hand lane. Elon Musk has again cautioned drivers that they are expected to keep two hands on the steering wheel at all time, especially while the software is fairly new.

Every Tesla is connected to the cloud, so every car can learn from every other car. Eventually, the system will perfect itself to the point where true hands free driving will be possible, but Musk admits that time may be several years away.

In the meantime, every Tesla owner from Oshkosh to Orlando is busy taking videos of their cars driving with no hands on the wheel through rush hour traffic, down mountains, and at high speed on the interstate (the system disables itself above 90 mph.) Sometimes, there’s just no program that can compensate for stupid.

 

Photo credit: Mike Spinelli, via Instagram.

 

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.