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Inside the ‘salt test’ – the ultimate challenge for self-driving cars that caught Elon Musk’s eye

As automakers like Tesla continue to develop self-driving car systems, Americans are getting closer to owning automated vehicles.

But technologist and artist James Bridle showed how a driverless car could be mistaken for something as simple as two rings of salt.


Numerical representation of James Bridle’s salt test for self-driving cars

Bridle’s test consists of placing two rings of salt around an autonomous vehicle.

One of these rings is separated into sections to represent no-go road markings, while the other is an unbroken line.

Bridle then pulled his car into the salt rings and told the vehicle to go right without crossing.

The trial car is immobilized because its technology does not allow it to cross the access prohibition signs on the road.

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Bridle told Vice: “I ran out of salt and had to go back to the nearest village to buy a few more kilos.

“Fortunately, salt, unlike bandwidth and computing power, is a pretty cheap resource. Plus, I would have had to pull up my pants for the video.”

Elon Musk saw a Twitter user share the video of Bridles and replied: “Could probably trap a Tesla with the production version of Autopilot, but will not work with FSD”, referring to Tesla’s Full Self-Driving mode which is currently in beta testing.

“Using a ring of cones would stop the FSD, though.”

According to Tesla Support, the FSD feature: “Identifies stop signs and traffic lights and automatically slows your car to a stop on approach, with your supervision active.”

FSD additionally provides automatic steering on city streets.

While Bridle’s experiment took place in 2017, Musk’s Twitter response was sent in 2021, showing that self-driving cars still face these development hurdles.

Florida Tesla owner Chuck Cook posted several videos on YouTube testing the FSD beta of his Model Y.

And the videos’ dangerous findings captured the attention of Tesla and the public.

Over the summer, Cook posted YouTube videos of his Tesla Model Y SUV attempting to make unprotected left turns.

Unprotected left turns require the driver to yield to oncoming traffic before moving.

Cook pointed out how the FSD would encounter problems during unprotected left turns, such as getting stuck next to the middle of the corner median, The New York Times reports.

This stuck position led the rear of Cook’s Model Y to come out into oncoming traffic.

Another test video showed Cook’s Model Y crawling too far into oncoming traffic.

Elon Musk noted Cook’s findings and sent a fleet of test cars to the FSD tester’s Florida neighborhood to conduct experiments that would improve the software, The New York Times reports.

Today's self-driving technology can handle crowded parking lots but fails to overcome simple tests like James BBridle's salt test


Today’s self-driving technology can handle crowded parking lots but fails to overcome simple tests like James BBridle’s salt testCredit: Getty


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