Tesla’s Musk Promises Autopilot Upgrade for August

Beleaguered electric car manufacturer Tesla has hit some potholes lately — settling lawsuits, defending its track record of safety and assuaging fears the company is bleeding cash and missing delivery deadlines.

In an effort to put the focus back on the company’s high-end electric vehicles, CEO Elon Musk CEO took to Twitter on June 10 to announce an August update to Tesla’s Autopilot advanced driver assistance system (ADAS).

He was responding directly to a Tesla owner commenting on Autopilot’s inability to help his vehicle merge lanes in rush hour traffic.

Musk replied by saying that lane-change issue has been improved in the latest version of Autopilot software and will be fully fixed in August update as part of Version 9.

He continued by explaining that with the August software update, Tesla would begin to enable full self-driving features — at a time when public concerns about self-driving vehicles is on the rise.

The optional Autopilot feature on Tesla vehicles consists of eight surround cameras, which provide 360 degrees of visibility around the car at up to 820-feet of range.

In addition, 12 updated ultrasonic sensors allow for detection of both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system.

Finally, forward-facing radar with enhanced processing provides additional data on a redundant wavelength that is able to see through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead.

German carmakers BMW and Daimler, homegrown nameplates from Ford and GM, and Japanese automakers are flooding the market with increasingly sophisticated ADAS offerings, even as consumer confidence in ADAS platforms slips.

Despite the prestige Tesla has garnered with the reliability, speed and style of its vehicles, competition in the connected and autonomous vehicle (AV) market continues to accelerate.

The Center for Auto Safety and Consumer Watchdog have called for an investigation into electric car maker Tesla’s branding of Autopilot, with the groups accusing Tesla of misleading consumers into believing its vehicles’ Autopilot feature is safer and more capable than it is in reality.

So far, two people have died in crashes involving Tesla cars that were engaged in Autopilot at the time of the accident. Musk himself admitted the high-profile accidents have resulted in a dip in the use of the feature.

A 2017 report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that over-reliance on — and a lack of understanding of — the Autopilot feature can lead to death.

Musk has previously clarified to customers and the general public that Autopilot is designed as a driver assistance system that maintains a vehicle’s position in lane and adjusts the vehicle’s speed to match surrounding traffic, and is not a replacement for human control.

Despite consumer and government concerns, sales of fully autonomous vehicles in the US are expected to rise over the next eight years, reaching 5 million by 2026, according to a report from analyst firm Juniper.

The report projected the global market would account for 20 million new AVs sold during that same year.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter @dropdeaded209_LR.

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