The new Autopilot software update that Tesla started to roll out last week features some improvements in performance as promised by CEO Elon Musk. But now, owners are also finding out that Tesla significantly increased the “nag” to force drivers to keep their hands on the wheel.

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Under its current form, Tesla Autopilot is a level 2 driver assist system and the driver is required to keep their hands on the steering wheel and stay attentive.

Tesla has been refining ways to make sure that drivers do keep their hands on the steering wheel and stay attentive, which Tesla owners have been referring to as “Autopilot nag.”

There are sensors on the steering wheel that can detect when pressure is being applied which Tesla uses to know if the driver is touching the wheel.

If the sensors are not detecting anything for an extended period of time on Autopilot, it will prompt gradually more significant alerts until it detects hands on the wheel.

With the introduction of the software update v8.0 in 2016, Tesla introduced a more aggressive “Autopilot nag,” which prompts more ‘Hold Steering Wheel’ alerts.

Here was the general breakdown at the time:

  • Below 45 mph
    • ‘Hold Steering Wheel’ alert after 5 minutes on a straight road.
    • If there are curves on the road, the system accounts for lateral acceleration: refer to “over 45 mph.”
  • Over 45 mph
    • ‘Hold Steering Wheel’ alert after 1 minute if no vehicle to follow.
    • ‘Hold Steering Wheel’ alert after 3 minutes if you are tracking a car in front.

Tesla has been changing this ever since to try to make the system safer which in practice has mostly resulted in more nags.

With the latest update (2018.21.9) that Tesla started to push last week, it looks like the ‘Hold Steering Wheel’ alert appears every 15 to 20 seconds that pressure is not detected on the steering wheel.

Tesla’s latest Autopilot update comes with more ‘nag’ to make sure drivers keep their hands on the wheel:

Some owners are unsurprisingly complaining about the change and CEO Elon Musk addressed the issue on Twitter – saying that it is about finding a balance:

Other owners have also complained about the amount of pressure that also needs to be applied to the steering wheel in order for the alerts to go away.

You need to apply enough pressure on the wheel for it to be detected, but you don’t want to apply too much pressure that it will deactivate Autosteer.

Some owners are actually reporting that the pressure sensitivity has actually improved with 2018.21.9:

Electrek’s Take

If the goal is to have the driver keep their hands on the steering wheel, I think this update should do it.

The thing is that many owners don’t think it should actually be required to keep your hands on the wheel and I think there’s certainly an argument for it.

I think paying attention to the road and to what Autopilot is doing is a lot more important for safety than actually having your hands on the wheel as long as you can get them on the wheel fairly quickly if needed, which is generally always the case if you are in the driver’s seat.

But this is a case of a few people abusing the system and making it harder for everyone else. A good example is the Tesla owner who got caught on video leaving the driver’s seat while on Autopilot.

Right now, forcing the driver to keep their hands on the wheel is Tesla’s best solution for keeping drivers responsible, which ultimately is a good thing for safety.

GM’s Supercruise uses eye-tracking which works fairly well, but Musk was apparently not impressed with the technology, so he decided not to use it for Autopilot.

Yet, the Model 3 is equipped with a driver-facing camera, so you never know.

What do you think of the latest Autopilot nag update? Let us know in the comment section below.

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