Tesla Autopilot-01

With Tesla’s Autopilot 8.0 update, the electric automaker’s autonomous driving systems now place greater reliance on radar, rather than on cameras as it has done before. The hardware required is already in place; the Model S and Model X with Autopilot with a manufacture date of October 2014 or later already have the requisite sensors, which, until now, played a supporting role in the Autopilot package.

Now with the advent of Autopilot 8.0, radar takes the lead in guiding the main controls, which will improve the car’s ability to navigate in bad weather conditions compared to solely using cameras. “Even if you’re driving down the road and the visibility is very low and there’s a multi-car pile up, the camera can’t see it, but the radar would and apply the brakes,” said Tesla.

In the past, Tesla’s systems relied more on cameras instead of radar due to the higher incidence of false positives with radar, something the company has managed to get around with a camera-based system. With Autopilot 8.0, a greater amount of data can be retrieved. Tesla says a more detailed point cloud gives access to six times as many radar objects, with much more data per object.


Further to that, the system will take radar snapshots every tenth of a second in order to determine objects, whether they are still or in motion, and exclude more inconsequential radar reflections. The updated system will also compare how its drivers respond to road conditions, with how it might react itself.

“Initially, the vehicle fleet will take no action except to note the position of road signs, bridges and other stationary objects, mapping the world according to radar. The car computer will then silently compare when it would have braked to the driver action and upload that to the Tesla database. If several cars drive safely past a given radar object, whether Autopilot is turned on or off, then that object is added to the geocoded whitelist,” said Tesla.

Would the latest updates have saved the Model S driver from a fatal crash involving a trailer, when Autopilot was in operation? “We believe it would have,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a conference call. He was, however, careful to state that Autopilot was not a guarantee of absolute safety, 100% of the time. “I do want to emphasize that this does not mean perfect safety. Perfect safety is really an impossible goal. It is about improving the probability of safety. That’s really all you can accomplish,” he said.