In the few months since Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] officially released Autopilot autonomous vehicle functionality for all hardware-equipped Tesla Model S and Tesla model X electric cars made after October 2014, we’ve become accustomed to seeing videos posted to social media showing Tesla customers happily enjoying their car’s newfound driving skills for the first time.
From the autosteer functionality on freeways through to the automated parallel parking and more recently the impressive occupant-free ‘summon’ mode, we’ve seen plenty of examples showing just what Tesla’s autonomous vehicle software — still in public beta — is capable of, as well as a few detailing when the system hasn’t behaved according to owner expectations. And on a few occasions, we’ve even seen Tesla’s Autopilot functionality avoid an accident, saving itself and its owner from what would otherwise have been a costly prang or worse.
But this week, a new video has grabbed our attention showing Autopilot functionality working on the twelfth Tesla Model X to roll off Tesla’s production line in Fremont, California. Its owner? None other than Nancy Cartwright, world-renowned actor and voice of Bart Simpson (and many other characters) on The Simpsons, not to mention a whole host of other characters on TV shows from the past forty years or more.
As CarsWithCords details, Cartwright made a short video about the Tesla Model X and its autopilot functionality while recently driving north along the Hollywood Freeway ahead of its intersection with with Interstate 5 in Sun Valley, California. She then uploaded it to Facebook, where it was shared with her fans on Nancy’s official Facebook page.
What makes this particular video special? Other than the fact that it’s the voice of Bart Simpson showing the world Tesla’s Autopilot, this is the first video we’ve seen of someone showing the Autopilot functionality operating on Tesla’s brand-new Model X crossover SUV. It’s also one of the few videos where we’ve seen an owner reiterate the need for using caution when engaging Autopilot.
“I just want you to know something,” Cartwright says in the video “There was a little sign that comes up when you click it on Autopilot. It says ‘Always keep your hands on the wheel.’ And I can’t reinforce that enough because our planet…technologically we’re not quite set up to have everybody driving on Autopilot. But Elon Musk is certainly paving the way to the future so that some day probably we will all be driving on Autopilot.”
Taking her hands off the wheel momentarily, Cartwright shows that while she’s been holding the wheel up to this point, she’s not actually the one doing the driving. Waving her hands in front of her face, she shows the viewer that she’s also not touching the pedals as her Model X confidently follows the lane markings to keep itself in the middle of the carpool lane.
Since the video is recent, we also get to see the new corning behavior offered by Tesla Motors’ latest 7.1 update, namely the way in which Autopilot takes curves. Previously, Tesla’s software had taken corners at the desired pre-set speed if it was safe to do so, but following customer feedback Tesla has modified the software to slow down a tad for corners, something that Cartwright’s Model X does perfectly in the video.
Taking control of the wheel again, Cartwright seems to have the right idea about what Autopilot is and how it operates. Rather than rely on it completely, she likens it to autopilot features on commercial jets, an analogy that Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has used multiple times in the past and the reason that Tesla chose the name autopilot rather than ‘self-driving’ in describing its sophisticated technology.
“You would drive with your hands, and you would just be alert enough, checking your rear view mirror and around you, just like an airplane pilot” she says, describing how a driver should behave when autopilot mode engages. “Airplane pilots do autopilot all the time, but it’s just a sort of safety measure. They get sleepy… you just want to make sure that they get there safe.”
While Cartwright is known best for her voice acting skills, she is a long-time fan of electric cars and actually owns a Tesla Model S 60 alongside her Signature Series Model X P90D. But despite her privileged position on The Simpsons (a show Musk even guest-starred on, playing himself in The Musk Who Fell To Earth) her attitude towards electric cars and Musk is pretty down to earth about why she drives an electric car.
She’s also a complete Musk fangirl.
“Elon Musk is a genius. I’m so blown away by what this guy has done,” she enthuses at the end of the video. “How lucky am I?”
With nearly 12,500 views already, Cartwright’s video may not be an official endorsement of Tesla. But as far as unofficial endorsements go, we think this one is pretty impressive.
After all, who else has their product endorsed by the world’s most famous 10-year old?
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