Semi-autonomous Cars — An Advanced Driving Course for Chauffeurs in their Employer’s Tesla

Given that at Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA] we teach defensive and advanced driving, the use of assistance features which reduce the tasks and sadly also the concentration of drivers is not a key area for us.  (How new safety technology might actually be making our driving worse.)

That aspect, however, is not the theme of this write-up.  Instead, I will focus on the Tesla being driven normally, with the minimum of automated features and with maximum smoothness for the chauffeur context plus, of course, maximum regard for driving safely

A Tesla S that we used on an ADoNA advanced driving "safety and smoothness" course for chauffeurs, looking good in a color that's close to the famed "British Racing Green."
The Tesla Model S 85 used on an advanced driving “safety and smoothness” course for chauffeurs, looking good in a color that’s close to the famed “British Racing Green”. (Copyright image)

In the photograph above, the door handles are pulled in, flush with the doors, and the exterior mirrors have been swung inwards towards the windows, to minimize any risk of them being damaged while the vehicle is parked.  As you approach the vehicle with the ‘key’ — a lozenge-shaped, plastic covered object — in your pocket or purse, the exterior mirrors and the door handles move outwards to their correct positions, and the vehicle unlocks (see the next photograph).

Photograph showing the The door handles and exterior mirrors out in position, ready for use.
Ready for use. The door handles and exterior mirrors move out automatically as the driver approaches the vehicle. (Copyright image.)

The first thing that is immediately noticeable when getting the car ready to move off is the absolute silence and zero vibration.  Even though the car is ready to go, there is rather obviously no engine noise at all, and the first time this happens you may find yourself looking for a clue — any clue — that anything is happening.   But simply do the usual essential tasks:  adjust the seat, steering position and mirrors, pop your belt on, select forward or reverse on a steering column stalk control, check all around for safety and signal if appropriate, press gently on the accelerator, and in magic-carpet-style silence, away you go.  (Be aware that the parking brake is a completely hidden function.  It automatically switches itself on when you terminate a journey and just as automatically switches itself off again when you press that accelerator pedal to move off.)

Photograph of the Tesla hood insignia.
The Tesla insignia.

With all electrically-powered vehicles the silence aspect, in itself, can be a safety issue because nobody can hear your car approaching.  As a result, there are times when it is very important to be willing to use the horn (and we teach how to do that not only for the best safety outcome but also with the least likelihood of annoying anyone who is too easily upset by such things).

Photograph of the huge central display which contains everything except the most obvious vehicle controls. Here, the reversing camera view occupies just the top half of the screen.
The central display is huge — this is just the top half — and it contains everything except the most obvious vehicle controls. Here, the reversing camera gives an excellent view, but don’t forget the shoulder checks! (Copyright image.)
The central display screen on the Tesla Model S 85 is huge and here is displaying the GPS map, in night mode.
The GPS map — here in night mode — can occupy either the full display screen or just the top half. (Copyright image)

Apart from the obvious controls, such as steering, footbrake, accelerator, turn signals, gear selector (which offers only the options for Drive and Reverse), the wipers, high & low beam, seat and steering position settings, and the horn, virtually every other control can be found in the central display screen, which in turn is huge and very clear to view.

Like all computer operating systems, these days, adjusting the various settings is simply a case of finding the right key words then following a logical sequence of options — but naturally this must only be done when the car is stopped and in a safe location.  In addition, a surprising array of options may also be linked to your cell phone, if you like an even more personalized touch.  As mentioned at the start of this article, though, these facilities are not what this high-level driving course was about.

It is worth remembering that the car we were using was bought for it to be used by chauffeurs, but it is also driven by its owners who undoubtedly enjoy taking it for a run themselves on occasion.  The chauffeur aspect effectively guarantees that it is by no means a small vehicle, and its width is very noticeable when you are getting ready to drive it for the first time.  This applies to a lot of superb cars and only requires that you get used to the dimensions before driving in tight confines.

Photograph of the sleek-looking headlight unit on the Tesla Model S 85.
Sleek headlight units are common nowadays on a lot of cars, and these on the Tesla Model S 85 are no exception. (Copyright image.)

In gasoline-powered cars, the act of easing off the gas triggers something called engine braking, in which the reduced speed of the engine itself helps to slow down the vehicle.  In true advanced driving, the increase or decrease of pressure on the gas pedal is all known as “acceleration sense,” using the word acceleration in more of a physics and engineering context.  Interestingly, in the Tesla, the act of easing off or completely coming off the accelerator altogether, had a significantly greater engine-braking effect than in any other of the thousands of cars I have driven.  But while this may be disconcerting to someone not expecting such an effect and can result in the car slowing down too vigorously or too soon, it can in fact be used to very good effect for immensely smooth speed control.  I liked it a lot!

Photograph of a Tesla Model S 85, beyond one of the company's recharging'pumps."
Our Tesla receiving an astonishing 25 percent battery charge in just ten minutes — more than enough to complete that day’s lengthy training drive. The charging points look sufficiently different to gasoline pumps to prevent any confusion! (Copyright image.)

The Tesla we were using was over four years old but none-the-less could cover a very useful distance before recharging the batteries became necessary.  On one of the driving days, however, we did get to the point where a “top-up” became the wise choice to get us home, so it was simply a case of stopping at a Tesla recharging station, where a 25 percent boost to power can be had in just ten minutes (see the above photo).

Rear three-quarter view of a Tesla Model S 85 sedan.
Good looking from any angle, the Tesla Model S 85, a very enjoyable car to drive. (Copyright image.)

Other than that, overnight charging is the norm with all electrically-powered cars, and the Tesla is no exception.

All I can say is that I greatly enjoyed this vehicle and hope that I get to spend a lot more time in one in the not-to-distant future, and perhaps the opportunity to do a full safety review.


For more details of our defensive and advanced safe driving courses, click here, and feel free to contact us from that page with any questions.

Defensive Driving Course for Chauffeurs in Las Vegas

Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA] safe driving courses for chauffeurs are designed not only to maximize the safety of these specialist drivers, for the obvious benefit of  their employers or clients, but also to significantly enhance smoothness and finesse (to an extent that always surprises and delights the chauffeurs concerned).

Photograph of traffic on Interstate 515 near Las Vegas.
There is much that can inevitably be taught about the safest, smoothest driving on busy highways. (Copyright image.)

At ADoNA, we work with corporate drivers and chauffeurs throughout the USA, Canada and related islands.
Continue reading “Defensive Driving Course for Chauffeurs in Las Vegas”

Advanced Driving Courses in Washington State

Over the past 12 years, Advanced Drivers of North America has carried out driver safety training throughout the Pacific North West, including six cities (each for different corporate clients) in Washington, from the Tri-Cities in the south-east of the state to Bellingham in the north-west, and of course Seattle.

An aerial view of Seattle
A wonderful view of the city of Seattle, as I flew in on August 12, 2017, and like all cities, the sort of place we can use interesting challenges and instill a much better understanding of safe driving, especially on Advanced Drivers of North America’s “Silver” and “Gold” courses.   Copyright image.

Continue reading “Advanced Driving Courses in Washington State”

An Insight into the Vital Subject of Good Observations when Driving

The latest “THINK!” advert gives a small but important insight into the proper use of observations when driving.

Far too many drivers simply gaze ahead of their vehicle while driving  without actually noticing everything they should and being alert to all the things that potentially could go wrong.  Worse than that, many drivers literally do just gaze at the back of the vehicle they are following, reliant on the brake lights of that lead vehicle to trigger a response in themselves.  But either way, drivers who do these things are throwing away a lot of safety.

Photograph of an urban road with multiple dangers such as pedestrians, cyclists, static cars with their doors open, etc.
The speed limit sign is not the only thing that needs to be seen when you are driving! This image is from the “THINK!” campaign in Britain but applies in every country.

Continue reading “An Insight into the Vital Subject of Good Observations when Driving”

Globe & Mail Article Cites Advanced Drivers of North America and We Didn’t Even Know!

At ADoNA, we have had the privilege of being quoted and mentioned in newspapers and on news programs around the world, and it’s always a pleasure.  On this occasion, however, we have found a Canadian article from three years ago (July 2014), in Toronto’s Globe and Mail, which uses our data to open the piece, and we didn’t even know about it until now.

A photo of Advanced Drivers of North America's CEO Eddie Wren at the United Nations in New York City for their General Session on global road safety, April 2012.
Advanced Drivers of North America’s CEO Eddie Wren at the United Nations in New York for their General Session on global road safety, April 2012. (Copyright image.)

Presumably quoting from the earlier version of our now completely re-written website, the article starts:

Continue reading “Globe & Mail Article Cites Advanced Drivers of North America and We Didn’t Even Know!”

ADoNA: The Clear Leader in U.S. Driver Safety and Training – a Research Victory

For over ten years, Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA] has been teaching the important fact that official “overall stopping distances” for cars have been inaccurate and needed to be treated as being significantly longer than previously thought.  Now, at last, our own calculations have been proven appropriate and extremely accurate.

An excellent graphic from Brake showing the old versus new 'overall stopping distances' in which each car length represents 13 feet.
An excellent graphic from Brake showing the old versus new ‘overall stopping distances’ in which each car length represents 13 feet. (New distances shown above old distances, at each speed.)

Continue reading “ADoNA: The Clear Leader in U.S. Driver Safety and Training – a Research Victory”

The Most Popular 5 Posts in the First 8 Weeks of the New ADoNA Website

To help new visitors to this Website save time by seeing just those posts that have gained the most interest, here is the first of what will be a series of periodic lists, and on this occasion these five are from the 71 topics posted so far (use the ‘Archives’ or ‘Categories’ in the right-hand sidebar to view more):

1. It’s Mirror-Signal NOT Signal-Mirror, Despite Bad Advice for 100 Years!

The car with a matched pair of rear, high-intensity fog lights will clearly remain more visible than even cars nearer the camera that have only their regular rear lights to rely upon. Copyright image.

Continue reading “The Most Popular 5 Posts in the First 8 Weeks of the New ADoNA Website”

The Unmatched ‘Driver Safety’ Resume of ADoNA CEO & Chief Instructor Eddie Wren has been Updated

Photograph of a large semi-tractor-trailer coming the other way on a gravel road.
If your team has to work in rural areas — as many of our clients’ personnel do — then amongst other things we teach safe driving on gravel roads, even if you meet a big truck like this coming the other way! (Copyright image.)

Advanced Drivers of North America’s CEO & Chief Instructor, Eddie Wren, has an entirely unmatched resume within North American road safety and driver training circles, and it has just been updated.

See how ADoNA, either through consultancy or driver training, can best help your organization.  Contact us.

Risk Awareness and Perception Training are So Important but are Still Just Part of the Bigger Picture

Hazard awareness has always been of massive importance in safe driving and has been a critical component of true advanced driving since the inception of the System of Car Control by the police in Britain, an astonishing 82 years ago, in 1935.  This is the sole driving system taught by Advanced Drivers of North America [ADA/ADoNA],  since the  corporation’s own inception (without the word ‘North’), back in 2006.

Some excellent research has been published by NHTSA earlier this year (2017), in relation to an updated Risk Awareness and Perception Training [RAPT] program for young drivers.  This represents exactly the same discipline as practiced in the “hazard awareness” mentioned above. Indeed, for fleet or corporate drivers, we at ADoNA are the sole suppliers in the USA of this globally-unmatched system, which we have spent years carefully refining for it to be a perfect fit for North American driving safety culture — not just the “driving on the other side of the road” bit 🙂

View an outline of our Defensive and Advanced Driving Courses at ADoNA.

Photo of a woman on a traffic island with cars all around, and with a baby trailer attached to her bicycle.
Just one of many scenarios where drivers must be extremely perceptive of multiple, simultaneous hazards. Boulder, Colorado.  (Copyright image: Eddie Wren, 2007.)

This NHTSA research represents a major breakthrough of great importance to improved safety for America’s young drivers, and we strongly hope to see a system put in place for all young drivers to get the benefit of relevant training.  Here is an excerpt from the paper:

Previous research suggests newly licensed teen drivers often fail to anticipate where unexpected hazards might materialize. One training program designed to address these apparent deficiencies in knowledge and skills that has shown promise in previous tests is the Risk Awareness and Perception Training (RAPT) program. This project updated RAPT using high definition video and computer simulations to create a more interactive and realistic program. Researchers evaluated the modified program’s impact on the behaviors of novice and experienced drivers through the use of a computer-based test and during on-road drives in live traffic on a pre-defined route. Both the novice and experienced driver RAPT-trained groups showed substantial improvement in performance from pre- to post-test with the RAPT trainees hitting almost all of the targets during the computer post-test. The performance differences extended to the eye-tracker data arising from the on-road drives. The RAPT-trained groups hit significantly higher numbers of total primary targets and percentages of targets compared to the control groups. The study also employed a “Think Aloud,” or commentary driving, data collection effort. This data collection approach did not reveal any performance differences among the training groups. This study also included a persistence measure using the computer assessment one month after training. Results showed the RAPT-trained groups’ target hit rates decreased from the initial post-test to the persistence measure but remained above their baseline hit rates and above the control groups’ persistence measure hit rates.

On this ADoNA website you are currently viewing, you will also find a wealth of free, additional research-based and best-practice based information with which to support your team of business drivers and help maximize their safety.

Protect Yourself from Red Light Runners & Distracted Drivers

This video is a classic example of someone who doesn’t even notice that a traffic light has been on red for a significant time.

Such behavior is commonly indicative of distracted driving.  Bear in mind that hard braking or swerving under these sort of circumstances might stop your car being hit by the red light runner but equally might result in you having a collision with a third vehicle.  So the rather obvious question is how do you and/or your employees protect yourselves from being in a collision in any circumstances similar to this if — in this instance — you are one of the drivers who is making a left turn?

Such issues are just one small but important part of our multi-faceted defensive and advanced driving courses at Advanced Drivers of North America, Inc.  Contact us for more details.

The video is courtesy of the City of Lakewood, WA, where this incident was filmed.