Here’s What Tesla Autopilot Sees (w/Video)


Tesla’s Version 7.0 firmware  that enables its Autopilot suite of autonomous driving functions has been out for several weeks. We know it uses an array of sensors to gather data about its surroundings. To start with, every car built since October, 2014 has both a forward looking radar and camera. The car also gets GPS data constantly and has an array of 12 ultrasonic sensors that scan all around the car in real time out to a distance of 16 feet.

All those sensors enable a range of safety and convenience features. On the safety side, the car will bring itself to a halt automatically if it senses a collision is imminent. It warns of cars or bicyclists coming up from behind on either side. And it makes adaptive cruise control possible, so the car will slow automatically if the car ahead reduces its speed.

Tesla also offers owners a suite of what it calls “convenience features.” These include the much talked about Autosteer that keeps the car from wandering out of its lane, enables lane changes with a touch of the turn signal stalk and allows the car to parallel park itself. Those features are part of an optional package that costs $2,500 at the time of purchase or $3,000 if an owner decides to add it after the car is built.

While we understand all that, until know we have never had a clear idea of how all that information looks to the car’s computer. Now Wonderful Engineering has released a video that lets us see what the car sees. Notice how, as the car drives along, the computer highlights important elements like traffic lights, speed limit signs and Do Not Enter signs in green to indicate it is aware of them and is taking them into account as it makes driving decisions. You will also see how the camera sweeps over cars, people and objects flowing past the car on both sides.

Elon Musk says Autopilot will reduce traffic injuries and fatalities because, unlike human beings, it never gets sleepy, never parties, and never gets distracted by the kids throwing stuff at each other in the back seat. Like all computers, it is 100% reliable…until it isn’t, which is why drivers must still pay attention and be ready to take over the controls if necessary.


About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I’m interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

  • Paragraph 4 – should be “until now”.

  • Neal

    This video is not from tesla or a tesla vehicle.

    Please check sources and do not trust the title of a YouTube video.

    • Steve Hanley

      Ahh….I have been caught with my pants down. You are completely correct, sir. The video is from The story has been amended accordingly.

      Thanks for catching my error.

      • Neal

        No worries! ??

      • Joe Viocoe

        Problem is… wrong information on the internet is not easily amended…

        Still has the article saying, “Now Tesla has released a video”.

        And changing the body of the article doesn’t help the misleading Headline. This should not be labeled as Tesla, or Autopilot… but Autonomous driving car.

        • Steve Hanley

          Yikes. CleanTechnica is part of the media group that owns Gas 2.0. All of their websites are free to re-post articles. I am not made aware of when that happens, but I will notify the editor of CleanTechnica that a change is needed.

          As for the headline, we will have to agree to disagree on that. The video is clearly about a Tesla and its Autopilot features, not some DARPA robot negotiating a trackless desert. ; – )