NEW VERSION OF TESLA'S AUTOPILOT SOFTWARE WILL TIGHTEN DRIVER-RESPONSE MONITORING, REPORT SAYS
In the wake of several accidents and the resulting media scrutiny of Tesla's semi-autonomous Autopilot driver assist feature, the EV maker plans to add new safety restrictions to the system, Electrek has learned. Even though Tesla and CEO Elon Musk took a defensive stance following a fatal accident earlier this year in which a Model S drove under a semi truck's trailer, the company indicated it will update Autopilot in the near term via over-the-air updates but not hardware.
Specifically, with update v8.0, the Autopilot system will respond differently if drivers ignore the system's alerts when it detects the driver's hands are not on the steering wheel. The system is currently configured to execute an abort procedure when the driver fails to respond to 15 seconds of audio and visual warnings; Autopilot mutes the music and begins to slow the vehicle, instructing the driver to place his or her hands back on the steering wheel.
The new update is expected to stop the system from being reactivated after a driver ignores visual and audio warnings, essentially preventing the driver from turning Autopilot back on after ignoring its commands. Autopilot will not permit itself to be reactivated until the car is put into Park.
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Tesla is unlikely to say the changes have been added directly in response to recent accidents; Electrek notes that investigations showed drivers' disregard for system warnings played a role or occurred almost concurrently with at least two accidents.
The v8.0 update, aside from introducing more gradual improvements to the system's operation, is also expected to offer an automatic off-ramp feature for exiting highways through the activation of the turn signal. Activating the turn signal currently allows Autopilot to change lanes automatically, at least while the driver is also holding the steering wheel. (It sounds a lot like driving, really.)
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As v8.0 will be a software update, those looking for more advanced features will have to wait until Autopilot 2.0 debuts. The next version of the system is expected to feature a revised sensor suite, though a LIDAR laser-mapping system may still not be a part of the system's evolution. Expect to learn the details and capabilities of Autopilot 2.0 by the end of this year, with the system making it into the Model X and Model S later in 2017.