Tesla's Announced Upcoming Changes to Autopilot

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

Following the death of a driver, Tesla has announced upcoming updates to Autopilot designed to make the feature safer.

Moving forwards, Elon Musk says the cars will make greater use of the on-board radar for detecting and avoiding obstacles on the road. The camera-based system currently in use was heavily criticised in the aftermath of that fatal May accident, which saw a Model S collide with a truck when it apparently failed to differentiate between the white vehicle and the bright sky.

"After careful consideration, we now believe it can be used as a primary control sensor without requiring the camera to confirm visual image recognition,” wrote Musk in a blog post on the weekend. That said, he also admitted that teaching the radar system to ignore ‘false alarms’ such as overhead road signs and litter will be challenging, and that 'fleet learning' will be used.

"Initially, the vehicle fleet will take no action except to note the position of road signs, bridges and other stationary objects, mapping the world according to radar,” Mr Musk wrote. "The car computer will then silently compare when it would have braked to the driver action and upload that to the Tesla database. If several cars drive safely past a given radar object, whether Autopilot is turned on or off, then that object is added to the geocoded whitelist.”

Away from radar, he also revealed that Teslas in Autopilot mode will need to be parked if repeated warnings to hold the steering wheel are ignored by the driver. Only then will Autopilot be re-enabled.

Tesla hasn’t revealed a date for the rollout of the updates, but we’ll keep an eye on the situation. [Tesla via BBC]