Tesla’s Autopilot Update: Seeing the World in a Radar →

SEPTEMBER 12, 2016

According to Tesla, the main feature of Autopilot version 8.0 is making the car’s built in radar the primary control sensor to its visual image recognition system.

The net effect of this, combined with the fact that radar sees through most visual obscuration, is that the car should almost always hit the brakes correctly even if a UFO were to land on the freeway in zero visibility conditions.

Taking this one step further, a Tesla will also be able to bounce the radar signal under a vehicle in front – using the radar pulse signature and photon time of flight to distinguish the signal – and still brake even when trailing a car that is opaque to both vision and radar. The car in front might hit the UFO in dense fog, but the Tesla will not.

Darrell Etherington of Techcrunch had a good take about this topic that he earned a retweet from Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk. On his article, quoting some of Musk’s answers during a recent press Q&A:

…we believe [the update] would have” saved Josh Brown’s life were it in place prior to the fatal May accident in which his Autopilot-driven Model S collided with the broad side of a truck on a highway, Musk also cautioned that it’s not a panacea for safety.

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

Version 8.0 is set to be released in a few weeks via over-the-air update for free, and it will be available to all Tesla vehicles made from October 2014 and on.

This is intense technology. I think Tesla is years ahead on this game. Other car makers shouldn’t sit on their laurels. The future is here now.