Tesla Autopilot 8.0 update uses radar to prevent accidents

12 Sep 2016

The latest update to Tesla’s Autopilot software is being described as one of its most significant to date.

Tesla’s radar technology is being upgraded to prevent accidents like the one that happened to the driver, Josh Brown.

Tesla and its Autopilot software have come in for some criticism this past year following the tragic death of Brown, who died on 7 May when his Autopilot-activated Model S collided with a large truck while crossing a highway in Florida.

Future Human

Following an investigation, it was determined Tesla’s software did not pick up on the oncoming trailer due to the “brightly lit sky” that obscured both human and machine, resulting in the collision.

Now, in an effort to end such software problems, Tesla’s incoming Autopilot 8.0 software update will overhaul how its radar systems and camera work in detecting potential hazards for the vehicle and pedestrians nearby.

Revealing details on its blog, Tesla said that the car’s radar system will now be its primary control sensor to detect objects, without needing to use its cameras for visual confirmation.

In a follow-up call with journalists, Tesla founder Elon Musk explained that the new radar system will be capable of detecting anything “that’s large and dense”, causing the car to brake.

However, Musk said that it is only capable of detecting anything metallic and not something that would be “large and fluffy”.

Despite the limitations of the radar, Autopilot 8.0 allegedly recognises six-times as many objects than before.

Free-wheeling stunts will be no more

Rather than just capturing a single frame during a drive, a series of radar snapshots taken every tenth of a second will create a 3D picture of the surrounding world based on several frames, improving accuracy

Musk also added that the new update will allow the car to brake automatically when it detects that it will collide with an object it doesn’t recognise.

This ability would have prevented the death of Brown last May and will now also be able to spot potentially harmful objects in varied weather conditions, including rain or fog.

Another interesting inclusion in the update will be aimed directly at those abusing the capabilities of Autopilot and, more specifically, those who engage in stunts like sitting in the back seat during a drive.

With the new update, Autopilot will disable itself if the driver ignores warning messages to keep their hands on the wheel at all times.

Tesla dashboard image via Tinxi/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic