a self-driving Tesla tackle the twisted streets of old St. John’s

Sure it can handle the grid-like streets of most cities, but can a self-driving car navigate the centuries-old obstacle course that is downtown St. John’s?

That’s what Joshua Green is testing out, every time he takes a drive in 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’s been a passenger in his own car.

“It steers, it uses the accelerator, it uses the turn signals,” said Green from behind the wheel during a recent interview, as his car turned onto Duckworth Street, moving into the correct 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 makes lane changes, responds to traffic lights and can pretty much get you from Point A to Point B with the touch of a button. It even decides when to turn the windshield wipers on.

“This full self-driving software has been in the United States now for about six months, but just recently it came to Canada,” said Green. “So there’s about a thousand testers now in Canada of this software, and I was fortunate to be one of the beta testers.” 

Beta software means it still has a few kinks to work out. And it’s hard to imagine a better proving ground than old St. John’s, with its maze-like network of asymmetrical streets and painted lines barely visible after a winter of snow and salt.

Joshua Green approaches a tricky intersection in downtown St. John’s with his self-driving car in full control. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

But Green says he feels perfectly safe with his hands near — but not on — the steering wheel. He can take control at any time, and the self-driving system would shut off if he stopped watching the road or played with his phone. 

“I think people should think of it as no different than if I was actually driving the car,” he said. 

the video above to go for a virtual drive.

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