Tesla's new autopilot software update could roll out next week


Elon Musk has said that he's hopeful that the newest version of Tesla's autopilot software will be rolled out next week.

Taking to Twitter, Musk said that provided there are no "last minute issues" we should see the software delivered to vehicles as soon as Wednesday.

In a blog post on the Tesla site, Musk has already revealed details of the upgrade, the most notable of which is an increase in the reliance on onboard radar.

On the radar

Radar was added to all of Tesla's vehicles in October 2014 but it was only supposed to be a supplementary sensor to the car's primary camera.

Now, however, Tesla has apparently found that radar can be used as a "primary control sensor" without requiring the camera as radar is able to see through "most visual obscuration" and will know to avoid hitting an object when it's detected, even if it can't decipher exactly what that object is.

A big problem with using radar is that, depending on the material and shape of an object, the car might recognise it as larger and much more dangerous to the car than it actually is, leading to unnecessary braking and emergency stops.

The latest software seeks to reduce such misidentifications by using fleet learning to create a geocoded whitelist of objects such as road signs and bridges so that the radar can safely disregard them and focus on searching for actual collision threats.

Musk says in the blog post that the new features of this software mean that "the car should almost always hit the brakes correctly even if a UFO were to land on the freeway in zero visibility conditions."

Tesla's cars will also now be able to bounce their radar signals underneath any cars driving in front of them in order to see further ahead in the road and identify coming obstacles before the vehicle's camera or even its driver.

This is a feature which could prevent pile-up crashes as, if a car in front of a self-driving Tesla should hit something, the Tesla will know to stop and avoid a collision itself.

The upgrade is a notable response to the conditions that caused a fatal crash earlier this year, when Tesla's autopilot software ignored a truck moving into the car's path having misidentified it as a road sign. With the latest software update, a repeat of incidents such as this should be prevented.

Emma Boyle

Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.