Autopilot 8.0 On The Horizon

Yesterday, Tesla released details regarding the latest updates to its Autopilot software, and in the wake of the Model S crash that took place while the autopilot feature was enabled (and which resulted in the death of Joshua Brown), and last month's non-fatal crash in China, Version 8 is set to put an increased premium on safety.

The upgrades will go live in one to two weeks, and the most significant involves the role of radar within the Autopilot sensor system.

Initially, radar was designed to supplement the primary camera and image processing system, and confirmation from the camera was necessary to avoid false positives from radar (and subsequent unnecessary braking events).

With new upgrades to the signal-processing tech, however, radar can now be used as a primary control sensor capable of initiating braking events without confirmation from the cameras.

On top of this, the upgraded software can access six times as many radar objects as the previous version without requiring any upgrades to hardware. Every tenth of a second, it can compile those images into an accurate 3D "picture" of the world, even under conditions such as rain, fog, or haze.

A "Superhuman" System

According to Elon Musk in a press call with TechCrunch regarding the updates, the upgraded system will detect “any thing that’s metallic, anything that’s large and dense,” and then brake the vehicle. 

Musk calls the upgraded system's object detection abilities “superhuman” and says he believes Brown's death would have been avoided had the system be in place prior to his crash. He insists, however, that radar is not a panacea for the dangers inherent in road travel. 

“I do want to emphasize that this does not mean perfect safety,” Musk told TechCrunch. “Perfect safety is really an impossible goal. It’s really about improving the probability of safety, that’s really all you can accomplish.”

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