Tesla just announced new details about its Autopilot software upgrade. Dubbed "Version 8," the software will significantly improve the already awesome self-driving autopilot features of existing Tesla Model S and X cars making them safer and more fun to drive!
Tesla believes it can bring a significant upgrade using the existing hardware, specifically the microwave radar just below the car's front bumper. As Tesla puts it, the radar was originally intended "to be a supplementary sensor to the primary camera and image processing system," but "we now believe it can be used as a primary control sensor without requiring the camera to confirm visual image recognition."
This change is in direct response to the recent noted failure of the MobileEye camera system to distinguish the side of a big truck from the background sky, resulting in the death of the Tesla driver. While it appears the driver wasn't paying attention, clearly the car wasn't either. This change is Tesla's fix of that problem. Tesla is said to be moving away from the MobileEye hardware in upcoming vehicles, but Tesla wants current cars to be better despite somewhat limited hardware.
The company notes that "The net effect of this [software update], combined with the fact that radar sees through most visual obscuration, is that the car should almost always hit the brakes correctly even if a UFO were to land on the freeway in zero visibility conditions." If a UFO does land in the freeway in front of our Tesla, then we definitely want to stop and see it!
This should significantly improve the safety of the eMotion Teslas on Autopilot as they will "be able to bounce the radar signal under a vehicle in front . . . and still brake even when trailing a car that is opaque to both vision and radar. The car in front might hit the UFO in dense fog, but the Tesla will not." Pretty remarkable. Current eMotion Teslas are equipped with Autopilot.
Here's the bullet list of improvements from the Tesla post:
- TACC braking max ramp rate increased and latency reduced by a factor of five
- Now controls for two cars ahead using radar echo, improving cut-out response and reaction time to otherwise-invisible heavy braking events
- Will take highway exit if indicator on (8.0) or if nav system active (8.1). Available in the United States initially
- Car offsets in lane when overtaking a slower vehicle driving close to its lane edge
- Interface alerts are much more prominent, including flashing white border on instrument panel
- Improved cut-in detection using blinker on vehicle ahead
- Reduced likelihood of overtaking in right lane in Europe
- Improved auto lane change availability
- Car will not allow reengagement of Autosteer until parked if user ignores repeated warnings
- Automatic braking will now amplify user braking in emergencies
- In manual mode, alerts driver if about to leave the road and no torque on steering wheel has been detected since Autosteer was deactivated
- With further data gathering, car will activate Autosteer to avoid collision when probability ~100%
- Curve speed adaptation now uses fleet-learned roadway curvature
- Approximately 200 small enhancements that aren't worth a bullet point