Sure, it can handle the grid-like streets of Toronto, but can a self-driving car navigate the centuries-old obstacle course of downtown St. John’s?
That’s what Joshua Green tests, every time he gets behind the wheel of his Tesla Model Y. Green is used to being in the driver’s seat in his job as CEO of tech company Mysa. But for the past few weeks, he has been a passenger in his own car.
“He steers, he uses the throttle, he uses the turn signals,” Green said behind the wheel in a recent interview, as his car turned onto Duckworth Street, moving into the right lane.
Many Tesla vehicles are already equipped with the company’s Autopilot system, which can drive the car down the street or around a small neighborhood. But full self-driving takes it to another level: it performs lane changes, responds to traffic lights and can pretty much get you from point A to point B at the push of a button. It even decides when to activate the wipers.
“This fully autonomous driving software has been in the United States for about six months, but it only recently arrived in Canada,” Green said. “So there are about a thousand testers of this software in Canada, and I was lucky enough to be one of the beta testers.”
The beta software means it still has some issues to work out. And it’s hard to imagine a better proving ground than Old St. John’s, with its maze of asymmetrical streets and painted lines barely visible after a winter of snow and salt.
But Green says he feels perfectly safe with his hands near — but not on — the wheel. He can take control at any time, and the self-driving system would shut down if he stops looking at the road or playing with his phone.
“I think people should think of it as if I was actually driving the car,” he said.
Watch the video above to opt for a virtual drive.