Tesla autopilot update ramps up radar tracking for road safety

One step closer to safer autonomous driving

Tesla

Tesla Motors has announced a new update to its self-driving car system, following a fatality in one of its electric cars earlier this year.

An over-the-air update will lean heavily on the car's radar systems in order to give the electric cars a better sense of what is going on on the roads around them.

Autopilot 8.0 will temporarily prevent drivers from using the "hands-free" driving aid if they fail to respond to sonic warnings coming from the car dash.

If a driver takes his or her hands off the wheel for more than a minute above speeds of 45mph, a warning will sound. The same will happen after three minutes when following a car over speeds of 45mph.

Autopilot shut down

If three warnings are ignored in an hour, the new Autopilot system will switch off automatically until the Tesla is once again parked.

False positives (with a driverless car identifying, for example, a road sign as an obstacle) are more easily avoided with radar when compared to camera systems, by measuring the density of objects as well as their distance from the vehicle.

Originally introduced in October 2015, Autopilot was implicated in the death of Joshua Brown in May of this year. He was killed when using the hands-free feature in Florida, when his Tesla Model S collided with a truck's trailer.

CEO Elon Musk, while stressing that "perfect safety is really an impossible goal" when it comes to cars, has stated that he believes the new system could have prevented Brown's death.

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