Published: Wed, September 14, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Tesla says it's improving Autopilot by boosting radar

The update to Autopilot comes as the technology is under investigation by two federal agencies to determine whether the feature played a role in two recent crashes, including a deadly accident in OH in May.

United States electric carmaker Tesla Motors has upgraded its Autopilot function with new safety measures that restrict drivers from taking their hands off the steering wheel, after a number of crashes.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has announced new safety features are coming to its Autopilot assisted driving technology. They'll be available to Tesla owners in a week or two through an over-the-air software update.

Autopilot 8.0 will temporarily prevent drivers from using the "hands-free" driving aid if they fail to respond to sonic warnings coming from the auto dash. That said, radar waves pass through "soft" materials like the flesh of living beings, so Musk said that while the radar would probably be able to detect something as big as a moose, it wouldn't work on something smaller, like a deer. Brown was the owner of a tech company and was also a Tesla enthusiast, taking to YouTube to post videos of him driving the Tesla Model S using the autopilot feature.

"I think it will make the Model S and Model X by far the safest cars on the road".

Currently, the radar sensor on Tesla vehicles plays a supplementary role by complementing the camera sensors.

Tesla's CEO Elon Musk wrote on the carmaker's blog that the improved onboard radar is equipped with more advanced signal processing to create a picture of the environment around the vehicle.

At that time the vehicle driver, Joshua Brown, with #Tesla's Autopilot activated, crashed violently into a truck's trailer. "It's about improving the probability of safety".

In another key safety upgrade hoped to ease fears that Autopilot lulls drivers into a false sense of security, the system will disengage if drivers fail to respond to warnings to keep their hands on the steering wheel. Radar, which was added to all Tesla vehicles starting in October 2014, now helps the auto see things that may be blocked to cameras in bright sunlight or bad weather. This technology bounces radar off the road under the auto in front and rear to recognise objects ahead of that vehicle.

The advanced signal processing will allow the existing radar access to six times as many radar objects, along with more information per object.

The automaker also highlighted an additional list of refinements to the system's current operation, including the capability to take a freeway exit if the turn indicator is used. When asked if these updates would have saved the life of Joshua Brown, Musk answered in the positive, although he added, "These things can not be said with absolute certainty".

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