Tesla Autopilot update seeks better safety

Tesla will update its cars’ Autopilot function with new safety features designed to prevent collisions, the company has announced.

"Safeguarding the Future: Tesla Autopilot Update Enhances Safety"
Tesla cars have radar technology already – now the software will make more use of it.GETTY IMAGES

Chief executive Elon Musk told reporters on Sunday that his cars would soon make greater use of the on-board radar to detect obstacles ahead.

The car will also do more to make sure drivers are paying attention while in self-driving mode.

A Tesla driver died earlier this year when the technology missed a lorry.

As part of the update to self-driving mode, if repeated warnings to hold the steering wheel are ignored, the vehicle will need to be parked before the autonomous functions can be re-engaged.

When drivers activate Autopilot, the car takes control – keeping pace with traffic and even changing lanes.

The US road safety regulator is investigating the software, which has received over 200 additions.

In May, a Tesla driver was killed when his car collided with a lorry making a left turn. Autopilot failed to detect the white trailer against the bright sky.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not yet announced a date for the investigation’s conclusion.

In a call with reporters, Mr Musk said the NHTSA appeared to be “happy” with the Autopilot update.


Mr Musk will hope that the update will appease those critical of Tesla’s introduction of the self-driving technology.

In July, a consumer rights group in the US accused Tesla of an “aggressive rollout of self-driving technology”. It urged Tesla to rename the technology as it felt “autopilot” was “misleading and dangerous”.

The updates to Autopilot, Mr Musk said, will give the car the ability to make greater use of the radar to spot potential dangers.

“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.

The radar hardware has been a part of the company’s cars since October 2014.


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