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Musk claims new Tesla autopilot could have prevented death

Tesla’s CEO and founder, Elon Musk, has said of the company’s latest autopilot software update, that with the on board radar now utilised as a major sensor rather than a complimentary one, it’s very possible that the recent in-car fatality of a Tesla customer could have been prevented.

The incident Musk is referring to happened in late June, where a freak accident saw a Tesla Model S drive into the side of a white, reflective lorry, ultimately sending the passenger compartment under the side of the vehicle. It highlighted a unique scenario where the autopilot feature was unable to detect the lorry due to the way it’s sensor suite works.

However Tesla doesn’t believe that would happen with its newly updated autonomous features. It now uses radar just as much as its other sensors, which should make it easier to detect reflective surfaces like the lorry which caused the accident earlier this year. It won’t be utilised alone however, as radar is no good at detecting people or non-metallic surfaces, but it will play a much larger role in the overall detection systems employed by Tesla vehicles.

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This was mostly possible because the radar software on all Tesla autopilot vehicles has been upgraded. They can now track up to six times the number of objects, without weakening overall hardware performance. That’s a lot more information for the system to work with, which should make it more accurate -as long as there are not too many false positives.

This software 8.0 update will also start leaning on fleet learning to help with autonomous interactions. With instances like road signs, bridges and other potential road-crossing obstacles, Tesla vehicles will learn from real-driver interactions with them to see how they should respond. While the new radar features are being ironed out though, the AIs will take no action at these junctions, just in case.

Other newly added features include augmented breaking that amplify’s the driver’s breaking in emergencies, radar reflection lets the sensors check for obstacles by bouncing signals on the bottom of the car in front, better instrument panel messages and updates and the car will now automatically leave the motorway if you turn on your indicator.

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KitGuru Says: I still want to give these a couple more updates to become more settled, but when I get chance and can afford it, I’m buying a car with autonomous driving. Reading a book in traffic jams rather than peddle pumping for hours would be so great.

[Thanks Reuters]

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