Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, first made this announcement on January 8th. He said the autopilot system update would be available only for the first 1,000 vehicles which are running on HW2. For the rest of the cars, the update will be in shadow mode.
For those of you who are not aware, HW2 means Hardware 2 and refers to all Tesla vehicles which were manufactured from October 2016. The previous generation, HW1, will be improved as well, but Tesla CEO did not provide any details about this other than it will enable “Ludicrous “. Ludicrous is a mode which allows Tesla cars to hit 0-60 mph in 2.3 seconds. This is faster than the company originally promised.
The main difference between HW1 and HW2 models is the first can autosteer the car at highway speeds of up to 90 mph. HW2 vehicles have the autosteer feature, but drivers are allowed to use it only at speeds up to 35 mph.
Then, in a separate tweet, he added “if all looks good”, the update will become active for the rest of the fleet one week after the first announcement.
On January 16th, Elon Musk tweeted the new update was downloaded for all HW2 cars, “but in non-actuating mode to assess reliability.”
As of January 21st, the autopilot system update has been rolled out on all HW2 cars. However, Elon Musk advised the drivers to be cautious.
Below, you can see a video which shows a Tesla on autopilot mode.
Features for the New Autopilot System
- Advanced sensors. The new Tesla cars are equipped with eight surround cameras which provide 360-degree visibility at up to 250 meters. The cars also come with twelve ultrasonic sensors. These sensors can detect soft and hard objects from a greater distance than the previous autopilot system. Even though, the car comes with only one radar, it is so powerful it can process data through heavy rain, fog or dust.
- Data processing. Data is essential, but it’s also important how it is processed. The new onboard computer has a computing power which is 40 times higher than the previous one. This allows the system to see details about the surrounding world that a driver couldn’t. For example, it can see in every direction simultaneously or on distances which would be impossible to the human eye.
- Enhanced autopilot. This feature will allow the car to match the speed to certain driving conditions or keep within a lane. At the same time, the car will know when to change lanes without driver’s input, exit the freeway, transition to another highway or even self-park. On the freeway, the Tesla car will know when to change lanes if there’s slow traffic and will be able to determine an alternative. Thanks to its sensors, cameras and computer system, Tesla now has the autosteer function. This allows the car to navigate more precisely on tighter roads. With Smart Summon, the car will be able to navigate in more complex environments to find its driver.
- Self-driving capabilities. Once you get in the car, all you need to do is to tell the Tesla where you want to go. If you don’t say a word, then the car will look at your calendar to see what your destination is. If you’re not leaving from home and you don’t have anything marked on your calendar, then the car will take you home. It will find the best route for your destination, manage intersections, traffic lights, stop signs or whereabouts. When the car arrives at the destination, simply step out of the car and it will then find itself a parking spot.
These functionalities are “dependent upon extensive software validation and regulatory approval“. It may take a while until Tesla owners are able to use them to their fullest, according to their official website.
Tesla’s Future Plans
By the end of 2017, Tesla’s plan is to have a fleet of fully autonomous cars, which means they wouldn’t need any human intervention whatsoever.
As a matter of fact, Tesla first hoped one of their cars would drive in self-driving mode from LA to New York in 2018. However, it seems they didn’t expect to be ready so soon. I’ll definitely keep an eye out on Tesla.
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