Tesla readies autopilot upgrade that relies heavily on radar


Tesla is ready to put radar…well, on the radar as it gives the nascent auto technology a starring role in its controversial autopilot feature.

Read more: Uber makes big move toward wide deployment of self-driving cars

You may remember that back in June, for the first time ever, a Tesla driving with autopilot was involved in a deadly crash

The news confirmed people’s worst fears about self-driving vehicles. However, Clark was quick to explain why he continues to use the autopilot feature in his Tesla with no fear, and to clarify why he’s glad to do so in order for Tesla to get the data it needs to perfect self-driving functionality.

Clark’s not alone in his faith in this evolving technology. It goes without saying that Tesla founder Elon Musk believes in the future of autonomous vehicles too.

‘As the technology matures, all Tesla vehicles will have the hardware necessary to be fully self-driving with fail-operational capability,’ Musk wrote in his Master Plan, Part Duex manifesto. ‘Any given system in the car could break and your car will still drive itself safely.’

Now it seems that radar is going to play a key role in the next evolution of getting Tesla to that lofty goal.

Introducing Tesla’s autopilot version 8

Back in October 2014, radar capability was added as part of the hardware suite in all Teslas. But up until now, it was just a supplementary sensor. The camera and image processing system was the primary means by which Teslas were able to go semi-autonomous.

That’s about to change as the company gets ready to rely more heavily on radar. In a detailed blog post, Tesla notes what consumers can expect from a new software upgrade that’s imminent.

In short, the company’s latest iterative upgrade — called Software 8.0 — will both deliver higher image resolution via radar and more capability to assemble those detailed radar ‘snapshots’ into a 3D vision of the road and surrounding world.


In addition, the software will also use fleet intelligence to develop a whitelist of geocoded objects such as road signs and bridges that might otherwise be problematic for radar.

‘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,’ the company writes online.

‘Taking this one step further, a Tesla will also be able to bounce the radar signal under a vehicle in front…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.’

Other developments in AI on the road

Artificial intelligence also figures into GM’s new semi-autonomous driving system. Super Cruise, which is set to debut on select Cadillacs next year, will feature eye-tracking technology that watches you to make sure you’re watching the road.

‘[The] software can detect if a driver is dozing off or not watching the road, and uses audible and visual alerts to grab the person’s attention,’ The Wall Street Journal reports. ‘If the alerts don’t work, a representative with the auto maker’s OnStar information service will activate the vehicle’s intercom and communicate with the car’s operator.’

And if’s that not enough to get you focused back on the road, the car will automatically steer over to the side — even on a freeway — and come to a complete stop. No more being too busy texting while driving to notice the road or the warning signals coming from your car.

Now that’s a smart use of AI that should really save some lives out on the road!

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Clark weighs in on Tesla’s controversial autopilot feature

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