Tesla Rolls Out Autopilot

October 22, 2015  - By
Image: GPS World


In October 2014, Tesla started equipping its Model S with hardware to allow for the incremental introduction of self-driving technology: a forward radar, a forward-looking camera, 12 long-range ultrasonic sensors positioned to sense 16 feet around the car in every direction at all speeds, and a high-precision digitally controlled electric assist braking system.

Version 7.0 of Tesla’s software has now been released with Autopilot, which allows those tools to deliver a range of new features designed to work in conjunction with the automated driving capabilities already offered in Model S.

Tesla calls Autopilot a major step toward autonomous driving. “Tesla Autopilot relieves drivers of the most tedious and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel,” according to a Tesla blog. “While truly driverless cars are still a few years away, Tesla Autopilot functions like the systems that airplane pilots use when conditions are clear. The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car. What’s more, you always have intuitive access to the information your car is using to inform its actions.”

The combined suite of features represents an integrated autopilot system involving four different feedback modules: camera, radar, ultrasonics and GPS. “These mutually reinforcing systems offer real-time data feedback from the Tesla fleet, ensuring that the system is continually learning and improving upon itself,” the Tesla blog said.

Autopilot allows Model S to steer within a lane, change lanes with the tap of a turn signal, and manage speed by using active, traffic-aware cruise control. Digital control of motors, brakes and steering helps avoid collisions from the front and sides, as well as prevent the car from wandering off the road. “Your car can also scan for a parking space, alert you when one is available, and parallel park on command,” Tesla said.

Release of version 7.0 also features a significant visual refresh of the digital display. The instrument panel is focused on the driver and includes more functional apps to help monitor the ride.

Tesla founder Elon Musk said during a press conference that drivers should exercise caution in the initial months of the rollout, and consider Version 7.0 a beta release. “We’re advising drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at this early stage,” Musk said. The car’s dash alerts drivers when they need to take the wheel.

Just days after the launch, videos began appearing on the Internet showing near misses and other errors.