A Seattle Uber driver learned firsthand last week that it might be time to give up the wheel and bow to our computer overlords once and for all. Jon Hall was driving his all-wheel-drive Tesla Model S P85D down State Highway 99 in the Seattle area when an oncoming car veered into his lane, swerving across multiple lanes of traffic to make a turn. Spotting the speeding Honda Civic, the Tesla — traveling just under 45 mph — braked hard, coming to a full stop– on its own.
Hall says he had just dropped off a customer at the time of the incident, making things potentially scarier. Check it out for yourself in the video: the action begins around the three-second mark. It was rainy, Hall says in the video description, but the roads were fairly dry. There’s no audio in the dash-cam video because of Hall’s job shuttling passengers around and Washington’s privacy laws concerning recorded conversations.
“I did not touch the brake,” he says in the description. “Car did all the work.”
Reached by phone Wednesday, Hall, 27, said he was initially jolted, as any driver would be in the same situation. He said he wouldn’t have had time to react, as he was watching traffic on his right when the Honda Civic veered in front of him on the left. So when the car came to a full stop, he reacted in decidedly human fashion: he honked.
“It knew that a car had jumped out in front of me,” he said. “It knew that I was traveling too fast. All I had time to do was slam on my horn.
Hall is a Tesla enthusiast, a former molecular biologist who was inspired by Elon Musk’s innovations to go back to school and pursue an electrical engineering degree. Two and a half weeks ago, he says, he woke up to learn a software update was available for his car. It’s like an iPhone, he says, you just hit accept and wait.
Installing it took about two hours. All of a sudden, he said, the car knew how to stay in its lane, maintain a safe distance from nearby vehicles and execute lane changes on its “autopilot” mode. There were, of course, some quirks — but that’s to be expected with any new technology.
“Very quickly it comes to wow ‘how did we ever live without this?'” Hall said. “Especially because it responded before I could. That’s where the magic is.”
Hall says around 80 percent of his Uber passengers are dazzled by the vehicle itself, with its large touch screen display and blazing fast acceleration. Riders can call him directly to set up a trip in the Seattle area. The technology is, he said, impressive in its own right, but most importantly, it kept him safe.
“I was really, I was just grateful,” he said. “I probably would have killed that person … it really could have been a very bad accident.”