What’s it like to drive a Tesla?


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Ever wondered what it’s like to be in a self-driving car like a Tesla? Members of our Claims staff give us insight on their unique experiences

As self-driving cars are becoming a feature of the present, and less of a futuristic feature, more and more drivers are now wondering what it’s like to experience self-driving cars.

A few weeks ago, our Head of Claims Liability, Matt Paterson was offered the opportunity to test drive one, in this instance, the Tesla Model S. Given the opportunity to drive the Tesla for four days, Matt and several other members of Admiral staff were lucky enough to take the vehicle out on a drive.

To find out what it’s like to drive a Tesla Model S, we sat down with Matt to hear about his experiences:

What do you think of the growth of self-driving car?

The prospect of cars driving themselves has generally been restricted to dusty comics and sci-fi conventions, but it’s a prospect that’s rapidly turning into a reality. Cars that drive completely without human intervention are being developed – for example, the Google Car – but they’re a little ways off in the future. However, cars that do quite a bit of the driving by themselves are here today, so it was really exciting to have the opportunity to check out the technology first-hand.

What were your thoughts when you first saw it?

At first sight, it’s little different to any other executive saloon. It has four wheels, two pedals and one steering wheel. But it also has the ability to drive completely by itself, and that, of course, brings it firmly into the category labelled ‘jaw-dropping’.

With perilously little training, the good people of Thatcham Research gave me the keys, bade me farewell and then off I jolly well went with as many people from around Claims and the business as I could take. And every one of us had a glimpse of a future that’s bound to change the world of motoring, and will do so much sooner than many would anticipate.

So, what was it like to drive a Tesla?

Picture this: We’re driving on the A4232 link road out of Cardiff. The speed limit is 70mph and it’s a dual carriageway. With one flick of the switch, we go into adaptive cruise control and the car drives to that speed, adjusting down if something slower gets in the way. Nice, but not niche.

Flick the switch again and the car goes into Autopilot mode and drives entirely by itself. It steers itself for as long as you like, only asking you to touch the steering wheel once every two minutes just to make sure you’re still awake/alive. It turns by itself, brakes by itself, accelerates by its very clever little self.

Final thoughts?

Perfect? Short answer: no. It hates it when it can’t see the white lines, drives blisteringly close to kerbs and has a hissy fit at the mere mention of a roundabout. But it makes up for it in other ways – 0-60mph in 2.8 seconds , a 17-inch console that displays everything from the internet to Google Earth sat-nav, a bio-defence system which makes the air a pleasure to breathe and a button mischievously labelled “insane.”

It’s early technology, but it’s developing and these test drives mean we’re better prepared and informed as it moves into the mainstream, which it will. By any measure, it’s quite extraordinary.

What do self-driving cars mean for insurance?

It's becoming a more interesting topic, as new car technologies are becoming more common and accessible. At Admiral, we cover accidents which are caused by failures of self-parking systems, adaptive cruise control and auto steering. With regards to the auto pilot or self-driving mode, if these features are used legally and in the manner in which the manufacturer says it should be used, then it will be covered by Admiral. If a driver were to use hands-free technology inconsistently with the manufacturers specifications or against the law, then it will not be covered.  

See what other members of our Claims staff had to say about the Tesla Model S:

"Getting to ride in the Tesla was probably a lot like being the guy who got to play with an iPhone in 2006. A lot of the technology on the car will probably not seem nearly as mind blowing in 10 years but at this moment in time the concept of travelling at 65 MPH whilst the driver’s hands are on his lap just sounds like crazy talk, having seen the Tesla in action I can confirm it’s not. This sort of thing will soon be common place, it’s going to be fascinating watching the developments filter down onto family cars and I consider myself to have been very lucky to be given this glimpse of the future." – Huw Phillips.

"I love it, it’s awesome!! It looks great and has a hint of the Jaguar XF about it, rapid acceleration 0-60 in 2.8 seconds (WOW!) so as quick as a Porsche, and eco friendly too! It’s loaded with technology and has a futuristic feel. The lack of interaction that would be required in autopilot mode (although you can’t take your hands off the wheel at the moment) is likely to be unnerving to some at first but overall for me it was a fantastic experience." - Linda Wells.

"Matt was like a car salesman at the start - telling us about all of the amazing features the car had. It was really quiet, with no engine sound at all. It was also a smooth ride, as the car doesn't have any gears it speeds up and slows down without any of the jerking that you would get with a person at the wheel or in a manual car. It also accelerates really fast for an electric car - I felt like I was on a rollercoaster when Matt demonstrated the acceleration!" - Zoe Stollery.

"All I can say is wow! From walking up to the car and having the door handles pop out automatically, to the 17.5" monitor on the centre console, the car is definitely a glance into the future. It was clear to see that there is already Tesla enthusiasts out there and one just happened to be outside of the car park entrance. First of all screaming with excitement he then stood in front of us stopping us from going through a green light just so that he could take pictures. Once on the drive it was interesting to see the Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) work as to us in Claims this is a key bit of technology that is going to affect us moving forward." - Joe Keirle.

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