Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past decade, you’ll be familiar with the runaway phenomenon of Russian dash cam crash compilations. Documenting the cringeworthy collisions taking place every day on the nation’s streets, these videos, shot by small in-car dash cams and watched by YouTube viewers in their tens of millions, show that anyone taking to the streets of Russia best be prepared for trouble.
Of course, for those who are far away from Russia’s terrifying roads — where an estimated 200,000 accidents every year kill upwards of 28,000 people — watching these videos is pure, shameful schadenfreude. But for those who install dash cams in their cars, entertainment isn’t on their mind. Instead, dash cams are an essential aid in proving innocence in the event of a collision, protecting them from prosecution and rejected insurance claims.
Yesterday however, a new video appeared online showing that with a Tesla Model S electric car, complete with autopilot functionality, Russian traffic becomes a whole lot less scary.
While Tesla hasn’t yet officially launched the Model S in Russia, there’s a whole band of eager, wealthy Russian Muscovites who are willing to go to some extreme lengths to bring the Model S to Russia as a grey import. Like other Tesla Model S owners, it seems those privileged Russian Model S owners were just as eager to test the autopilot capabilities of the new Tesla Model S 7.0 software update as any other owner.
The video in question starts like pretty much every other Tesla Model S autopilot video we’ve seen in the past few weeks, with the person behind the wheel gingerly lifting his hands off the wheel and letting the Model S take over the driving duties.
“Let’s try it with one lane marking,” says the driver. After thinking that the Model S wasn’t responding to the single line marking, he exclaims “Oh! It’s turned on! We’re using one lane marking.”
Arriving at a traffic queue up ahead, the car, clearly in autopilot mode, starts to automatically slow down and sounds its warning chirp. “It slowed down by itself,” the driver explains to his passenger.
We then see a Mercedes-Benz pass the Model S on the left and signal to merge right. Merging with a safe gap between it and the self-driving Model S, the driver points out the car and says “Did you see the Benz?” to his passenger.
“Yup,” says his passenger, obviously impressed by the way in which the Model S is taking the busy traffic in its stride. But what happens next impresses both men more.
Without warning, the Tesla steers on its own to the left, sounding its warning alert and prompting the driver to grab the wheel. At the same time, the car slows itself down under emergency braking.
“Watch out!” the driver exclaims as a yellow taxi cab enters the picture from the right hand side of the screen. Executing a bold — and perhaps illegal overtaking maneuver with little or no warning — the cab squeezes in between the Tesla and a row of parked cars, eager to get ahead in the traffic.
“Damn!” exclaims the driver. “The cab cut us off! The taxi driver cut us off and [the] Tesla avoided it! For real!”
“I was thinking why the car was spinning the wheel to the left!” he continued, piecing together the seemingly strange behavior which helped the Model S avoid a certain accident.
As Tesla is keen to point out, the software currently rolled out to autopilot-enabled Tesla cars should be treated as a public beta, with the driver expected to pay attention at all times. In the case of this video, that’s exactly what the driver did, keeping his hands close to the wheel, ready and willing to take over.
In the case of this near miss however, we’ve no doubt that the car acted far more quickly than most humans, deftly avoiding a collision which would have not only been another Russian crash video for the world to chortle over, but a costly repair for the owner of a car which isn’t officially even available in Russia.
The message it seems is pretty simple. If you’re in Russia and you want to avoid being an accident (or comedy) statistic, buy a Model S.
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