Before Tesla began downloading Version 7.0 of its firmware on October 15, it allowed a few journalists to drive a Tesla Model S with Autosteer enabled in New York City traffic. Why, I have no idea. The Autosteer system is intended for use on the highway, not dodging taxis and pizza delivery people on West 29th Street. It cannot recognize traffic lights or stop signs yet (it will soon), and who needs cruise control in the city anyway?
Firmware Version 7.0 will allow the car’s computers to coordinate the data it receives from the forward radar, forward-facing camera, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and GPS to control its direction, speed, steering, and brakes. It enables lane keeping, automatic lane changes, and adaptive cruise control. It also warns the driver of other cars or objects nearby that may pose a danger. Lastly, it allows the car to identify an available parking space and then guide itself into it.
According to the Tesla website, “Tesla Autopilot relieves drivers of the most tedious and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel. We’re building Autopilot to give you more confidence behind the wheel, increase your safety on the road, and make highway driving more enjoyable. The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car. What’s more, you always have intuitive access to the information your car is using to inform its actions.”
Tesla says that, because every Model S is always connected to the internet, the cars form a sort of artificial intelligence network. “These mutually reinforcing systems (radar, camera, sensors, and GPS) offer real time data feedback from the Tesla fleet, ensuring that the system is continually learning and improving upon itself.” Now that’s some space age stuff, Elon!
Here’s another video of the Model S with Autosteer navigating through New York traffic.
Tesla is committed to keeping every car ever built as up to date as possible. Thanks to its wireless software download capability, even cars that do not have the autonomous driving hardware built in will benefit from the new Version 7.0 firmware.
“This release also features the most significant visual refresh yet of the digital displays for every single Model S around the world. The Instrument Panel is focused on the driver and includes more functional apps to help monitor your ride. We will continue to develop new capabilities and deliver them through over-the-air software updates, keeping our customers at the forefront of driving technology in the years ahead.”
Tesla may not be able to get the parts to build its Model X SUV from its suppliers, but it is light years ahead of the competition when it comes to autonomous driving systems.