Yesterday, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) issued an official blog post detailing an extensive Autopilot software update, with special attention to the radar system, which will no longer be relegated to playing just a supporting part.
Whereas the autopilot technology formerly relied more upon the camera to grasp a sense of the driver’s surroundings, now the radar will not only recognize whether a point of danger looms in the distance but also will be able to detect “anything metallic or dense.”
Tracking two cars in front of the driver, the system will have the power to mandate the car come to a halt, even if the driver is currently operating the Autopilot programming.
Additionally, the enhanced Autopilot will notify drivers with audible warnings if they are hitting over 45 miles per hour and driving with their hands off the steering wheel for over one minute without a vehicle in front, complete with the dashboard flashing an advisory light. If three warnings are ignored within the hour, the Autopilot will kick out of effect, and only parking the car will be able to restart the technology.
TSLA designed the new system this way to protect its drivers from falling victim to a multi-vehicular collision like the one in May that likely inspired drastic changes be made at Tesla’s manufacturing headquarters.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk spoke with journalists yesterday in a phone call and asserted, “We’re making much more effective use of radar,” adding, “It will be a dramatic improvement in the safety of the system done entirely through software.”
Moreover, Musk even believes it is “very likely” the infamous case of Tesla Model S driver’s May fatality, Joshua Brown, could have been saved from crashing into a semitrailer trucker while his car traveled in autopilot mode across a Williston, Florida highway.
Brown had been arguably the biggest TSLA advocate when alive, boasting 45,000 plus miles on his Model S in just his first nine months of owning it. Before falling victim to the motor vehicle accident that would end his life, driving his Tesla home from a Walt Disney World family vacation, Brown lay claim to YouTube fame with viral videos of testing his beloved car. At the time, he saw no limits in sight as he sped off on journeys, exploring the power of TSLA technology.
One video where Brown had avoided colliding with a truck even caught Musk’s attention. Barely over two weeks later, the truck abruptly turned left in front of Brown, and his car’s brakes never activated. Investors suddenly were sounding the alarm on the electric car giant and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration countered Musk’s company with the gravity of an investigation.
Musk deemed it “one of the work weeks ever, really.”
Thus came about the creation of the v8.0 upgraded radar processing system.
But what happens with a false alarm scenario? After all, not every warning the Autopilot perceives as dangerous is worth slamming the brakes to a screeching halt.
Musk explained, “I do want to emphasize: this does not mean perfect safety. Perfect safety is really an impossible goal. It’s really about improving the probability of safety – that’s the only thing that really ever possible. As you approach the law of large numbers, it becomes more and more applicable.”
Though perfection cannot be achieved, Musk hopes in taking this fatality seriously, with the new onslaught of thorough safety enhancements and measures to protect TSLA drivers, the company can polish its tarnished reputation.