Tesla will soon roll out an update to its Autopilot technology. According to Reuters, the update is one CEO Elon Musk says might have prevented a deadly Model S accident in May.
In a nutshell, the new system will rely more on its radars than the camera. Originally, radars took a supplemental role to the primary camera. Now, they’ll be used as the primary way to ID objects without needing the camera to confirm what they are.
“Anything metallic or dense, the radar system we’re confident will be able to detect that and initiate a braking event,” Musk said.
You can read more details about the radar improvements on Tesla’s blog post.
Musk announced the new software update to the Autopilot 8.0 system over the weekend. He calls it is a “dramatic improvement in the safety of the system”. The changes are in response to a deadly crash that killed a Tesla Model S driver in May. Joshua Brown died after his car hit a semi-trailer while in Autopilot mode.
In addition to increasing radar use, the updates also place more restrictions on “hands-off” driving. The system will shut down if drivers go too long with their hands off the wheel and don’t respond to audible warnings. Those will sound at one minute if traveling 45 miles an hour, not following another car. It will sound after the driver’s hands are off the wheel for more than three minutes when following behind another car at speeds above 45 mph.
Tesla’s Autopilot system was just introduced last October. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be reviewing Tesla’s software updates. It’s also investigating the deadly May crash.
Musk says the updates could have likely prevented the Florida crash, but he still cautions the new update “doesn’t mean perfect safety.”
“Perfect safety is really an impossible goal,” Musk said. “It’s about improving the probability of safety. There won’t ever be zero fatalities, there won’t ever be zero injuries.”
The software update will be available in a week or so and can be done “over-the-air” remotely.