The California-based electric luxury automaker has revealed its Autopilot semi-autonomous driving system has reached version 8.0, complete with a major update and several new tweaks and functions.
The major announcement pertaining to the company’s driverless system is the modification of the reliance scenario – from increased input provided by cameras to a major reliance on the radar system. The update is also retroactive – it can be accessed by all new Teslas but also the Model S sedan and Model X crossover units produced after October 2014 – as they were all provided with radar sensors at the front. The radar is able to “see” further ahead when there’s bad weather compared to the cameras, but was until now used for backup due to the issue with ‘false positives’. This is because the radar can see in the distance but is usually fooled by the need to determine the exact nature of the object seen ahead. A metallic surface can become a reflective mirror, people are partly translucent, and wooden and painted plastic surfaces become virtually see-through.
Tesla has resolved the problem by increasing the size of the radar ‘cloud’, allowing it to access more information about the object – and thus better assess the threat posed to the car in relation to its movements. There’s also “fleet learning”, which builds a database of every signpost, overhead gantry and bridge on the road network. The radar sensor is also able to direct its beam under the car in front to also see what beyond – thus being better prepared to any potential hazardous situation. There are also other updates: flashing white border around the panel tells the driver if the Autopilot is engaged or not, the system can autonomously take a highway exit if the indicators are turned or at the command of the navigation system, bigger lane offset when overtaking, and more than 200 other inputs to provide the Autopilot with more user-friendliness and a bigger safety margin.