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article imageTesla autopilot upgrade will rely more on radar as a sensor

By Karen Graham     Sep 11, 2016 in Technology
Tesla's autopilot system has been under close scrutiny since the crash of a Model S with the driver using the semi-autonomous driving mode in May this year. But CEO Elon Musk says Tesla is making major changes in its autopilot system.
The Tesla CEO announced on Sunday the upgrade to the autopilot system will make the cars safer and will dramatically reduce the number and severity of the crashes their vehicles have been involved in, reports the Associated Press.
The big news will be in how the vehicle uses its radar sensors. previously, the primary sensors were cameras and the accompanying image processing system backed up by data from the radar system to verify the findings. So Tesla has shifted away from optical technology and moved toward radar detection instead.
Tim Stevens, reporting for CNET's Road Show talked to Elon Musk today. When asked about Mobileye, and why the company was no longer providing the semi-autonomous driving technology to Tesla, Musk declined to comment, instead shifting the conversation to the new upgrade.
Called Version 8, the upgrade is expected to be out in a few weeks and will have much more than the cameras and radar working together as sensors. It will provide a number of new safety-orientated features in a "geocoded whitelist," reports the Verge. It's an attempt to avoid "false positives" (and automatic braking for no reason), in identifying obstructions like road signs or bridges.
The whitelist is supposed to allow the system to notice the potential for crashes that had been previously ignored. This is exactly what happened in May when the Model S ignored the truck making a left turn in front of it while it was in autopilot mode. The whitelist is a GPS-coded map of objects like overhead road signs that don't pose a danger to the vehicle, allowing the car to ignore them and not trigger an automatic braking.
During his conference call with journalists, Musk said that using the radar system as a primary sensor was a hard problem to solve. But he claims that no other manufacturers could have done it without connecting all their vehicles to the cloud and using fleet learning. Fleet learning is simply where vehicles report back to other vehicles on their surroundings.
Musk also took the conference call as an opportunity to clear up the "Beta" label, stating: "It's not really beta, it's just that if something is described really clearly with 'beta' you're less likely to be complacent." I guess that makes sense, don't you? I guess we will find out how much safer the new system is in just a few more weeks.
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