Home » News » Tesla » Tesla 8.0 update makes Autopilot more safe
After a long list of positive and negative reactions to the current Autopilot feature of the Tesla models, the American manufacturer decided to update its system so to increase the level of safety offered by the Model S and Model X.

The most significant upgrade to Autopilot will be the use of more advanced signal processing to create a picture of the world using the onboard radar. The radar was added to all Tesla vehicles in October 2014 as part of the Autopilot hardware suite, but was only meant to be a supplementary sensor to the primary camera and image processing system.

The radar can be used as a primary control sensor without requiring the camera to confirm visual image recognition. This is a non-trivial and counter-intuitive problem, because of how strange the world looks in radar. Photons of that wavelength travel easily through fog, dust, rain and snow, but anything metallic looks like a mirror. The radar can see people, but they appear partially translucent. Something made of wood or painted plastic, though opaque to a person, is almost as transparent as glass to radar.

On the other hand, any metal surface with a dish shape is not only reflective, but also amplifies the reflected signal to many times its actual size. A discarded soda can on the road, with its concave bottom facing towards you can appear to be a large and dangerous obstacle, but you would definitely not want to slam on the brakes to avoid it.

Therefore, the big problem in using radar to stop the car is avoiding false alarms. Slamming on the brakes is critical if you are about to hit something large and solid, but not if you are merely about to run over a soda can. Having lots of unnecessary braking events would at best be very annoying and at worst cause injury.

The first part of solving that problem is having a more detailed point cloud. Software 8.0 unlocks access to six times as many radar objects with the same hardware with a lot more information per object.

Assembling those radar snapshots, which take place every tenth of a second, becomes a 3D "picture" of the world. It is hard to tell from a single frame whether an object is moving or stationary or to distinguish spurious reflections. By comparing several contiguous frames against vehicle velocity and expected path, the car can tell if something is real and assess the probability of collision.

When the car is approaching an overhead highway road sign positioned on a rise in the road or a bridge where the road dips underneath, this often looks like a collision course. The navigation data and height accuracy of the GPS are not enough to know whether the car will pass under the object or not. By the time the car is close and the road pitch changes, it is too late to brake.

This is where fleet learning comes in handy. Initially, the vehicle fleet will take no action except to note the position of road signs, bridges and other stationary objects, mapping the world according to radar. The car computer will then silently compare when it would have braked to the driver action and upload that to the Tesla database. If several cars drive safely past a given radar object, whether Autopilot is turned on or off, then that object is added to the geocoded whitelist.

When the data shows that false braking events would be rare, the car will begin mild braking using radar, even if the camera doesn't notice the object ahead. As the system confidence level rises, the braking force will gradually increase to full strength when it is approximately 99.99% certain of a collision. This may not always prevent a collision entirely, but the impact speed will be dramatically reduced to the point where there are unlikely to be serious injuries to the vehicle occupants.

Taking this one step further, a Tesla will also be able to bounce the radar signal under a vehicle in front - using the radar pulse signature and photon time of flight to distinguish the signal - and still brake even when trailing a car that is opaque to both vision and radar.


Related Articles

Leave a Comment

Fields marked with * are required
Name *:
Email *:
Comment *:
Code *:
  CAPTCHA
  • Email
  • YouTube
  • RSS
  • Twitter
  • facebook
  • feedburner

Related Specs

  1. 2007 Tesla Roadster

    Engine: 3-phase, 4-pole Electric Motor, Power: 184.9 kw / 248 bhp @ 8500 rpm, Torque: 286.08 nm / 211 ft lbs @ 1 rpm
  2. 2010 Ford Mustang

    Engine: V8, Power: 315 hp @ 6000 rpm, Torque: 325 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
  3. 2009 Nissan 370Z

    Engine: VQ37VHR Variable Valve Timing NA V6, Power: 332 bhp @ 7000 rpm, Torque: 270 lb-ft. @ 5200 rpm
  4. 2010 Bentley Azure T

    Engine: Twin Turbocharged V8, Power: 500 bhp / 507 PS / 373 kW @ 4,200 rpm, Torque: 738 lb ft / 1,000 Nm @ 3,200 rpm
  5. 2009 Porsche Cayman

    Engine: 6 Cylinder Horizontally Opposed "Boxer", Power: 320 bhpN/A

New Vehicles

Rolls Royce SUV to be called CullinanRolls Royce SUV to be called Cullinan
Everybody is building SUV's. Even Lamborghini recently launched the Urus, the sportiest 4x4 vehicle in the world. That after Bentley launched the Bentayga. ...

Concept Cars

INFINITI Q Inspiration Concept first image revealedINFINITI Q Inspiration Concept first image revealed
As NAIAS Detroit is closing in, INFINITI is getting ready to offer us a glimpse of its future. Nissan's premium division has released an image of its ...

Custom Cars

Kahn Design has a new six-wheeled projectKahn Design has a new six-wheeled project
Kahn Design has published some teaser pictures with a six-wheeled Land Rover Defender. In case you wanted a Mercedes-Mybach G650 Landaulet and you haven't ...

Future Cars

Zenvo to launch new model in GenevaZenvo to launch new model in Geneva
Geneva Motor Show will host a lot of premieres, meaning we are going to see some new cars. But also some new supercars, from companies that are not so popular. ...

Market News

Vauxhall Insignia reached 100.000 ordersVauxhall Insignia reached 100.000 orders
It's on the market for less than a year and it already enjoys very good sales on the European market. Vauxhall and sister brand Opel, have reached the ...

Gadgets

Swedish families help Volvo develop autonomous carsSwedish families help Volvo develop autonomous cars
We are closer and closer to the moment when autonomous cars will become reality. And that is also thanks to the help offered by current clients, who decide ...

Various News

Ford expands production for Expedition and Lincoln NavigatorFord expands production for Expedition and Lincoln Navigator
SUV's are more and more popular. Not only in Europe, but also in the US. Ford is benefiting from this trend with two important models. The Blue Oval is ...

Motorsports

David Coulthard won the 2018 Race of ChampionsDavid Coulthard won the 2018 Race of Champions
David Coulthard won the 2018 Race of Champions after defeating Petter Solberg, the former WRC champion. This year, Race of Champions was held at the King ...

Videos

Tesla Model 3 clocked at 4.66 seconds for 0 to 60 mphTesla Model 3 clocked at 4.66 seconds for 0 to 60 mph
Tesla Model 3 should be a succesful model. The car was reserved more than 400.000 times before the launch and now the production has begun. ...