Most ordinary people (all of us who are not Elon Musk) do not fully appreciate how fast Tesla software improvements can take place. It has been just over a week since Version 7.0 of Tesla’s firmware began downloading to the cars and already Elon is tweeting that an updated version of the Autopilot software will be coming soon. Talk about your rapid response!
It has already been said, but it bears repeating: every Tesla ever made is connected to every other Tesla via the internet, so when one car learns something, every other Tesla learns the same thing. It’s a version of artificial intelligence and here’s how it works.
When the Version 7.0 software was first downloaded, many owners reported their cars wanted to exit the highway at every off ramp, yet owners are already saying that tendency is less now than it was last week at this time. Here’s what mobe posted on the Tesla Motor Club forum on October 20:
“So far I have a little over 300 miles on autopilot, mostly 20 miles at a time on my commute to and from work. The first day when I was in the right lane, as I approached exit ramps, it would dive for the exit ramp. I quickly learned to apply torque to the wheel to hold the car on the interstate until I had passed the exit.
“Each day the system seems to have less tendency to follow the exit ramps as I pass. The last two days, it only gave a momentary wiggle and moved over maybe six inches towards the exit ramp, then it recovered and moved on down the road. This morning it gave only a very slight hesitation, so little that I did not have to correct it at all. I find it remarkable that it is improving this rapidly.”
That’s not all the news from Planet Tesla. The company had to delay the Version 7.0 download until regulators in Europe signed off on its safety. Now Musk says the delay is over and downloading to the rest of the world (excluding Japan) will begin shortly.
Regulatory approvals received, so Autopilot rolling out to all countries! (Excluding Japan, which is still under review)
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 23, 2015
Tesla has been taking its lumps lately, especially after Consumer Reports rated the reliability of the Model S “Worse Than Average” and removed the car from its list of recommended vehicles. But just like Ronald Reagan, the company seems to shrug off negative attention and move steadily ahead, ticking off the next item on its agenda.
A car that is part of a cloud based artificial intelligence learning network? Unthinkable. A company that can react to new information within a week and begin updating the operating system of its cars wirelessly in a matter of days? Unheard of. Yet Tesla is doing all that and more.
While Google and Apple and Uber are rushing around trying to make autonomous driving cars, Tesla has gone ahead and done it. At the same time, it is using data from every Tesla in the world to create the highest quality digital maps available to any company so it can expand the self driving capabilities of its cars in the future. The enormity of what Tesla has accomplished hasn’t quite sunk in yet. It’s almost too much to grasp.
If we listen to the gospel according to Elon, the future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades. So far, the clarity of his vision and depth of commitment to his goals has carried the day every time and the man and his company show no signs of slowing down.