Tesla introduced a new update – autonomous driving features included.
Recently the Tesla project started to falter as it was hit by economic problems, lawsuits and not least by the fatal crash of a car controlled by autopilot. Now Tesla announced a new update to manage the turnaround.
Tesla’s autopilot was one of the first sold in line and offered a Level 2 semi-autonomous driving solution. The cars were able to drive by themselves but the manual requested the human driver to keep their hands on the wheel and stay alert. The driver had to be able to take over control at any time because technology was not ready to master all traffic situations.
Lately there has been an increase of incidents involving the Tesla Autopilot. Latter seems to tempt humans to lose their attentiveness in traffic and take up other activities. In Great Britain, a driver lost his license for sitting on the passenger seat whilst driving in an autonomous car.
On March 23, 2018 in California, a Tesla Model X car crashed into a freeway divider, killing the driver and causing a fire. Recently the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the USA took over the investigations in the case – their report stated that the driving was not paying attention. The car was oriented towards the car ahead and lost its point of reference at the divider. At that point, the driver had to take over control of the vehicle – unfortunately, he didn’t. The car accelerated, pulled to the left and crashed into the divider.
There have been more incidents involving Tesla models causing collisions by accelerating for no apparent reason. One reason for this could be a faulty update. Many users sued Tesla for selling life-threatening technology; these cases have been settled out-of-court. However, the company is facing more lawsuits initiated by consumer protection organizations.
Elon Musk announced on Twitter that there will be a new update starting in August involving new autonomous driving features. What those are and what autonomy level the Tesla models will reach with them was not communicated. The software update does not provide the integration of a lidar system. A lidar enables a 3D image of the vehicle environment and serves for orientation and position finding. Last year, Tesla was denied the ability to build autonomous cars by a GM manager because Tesla cars aren’t equipped with lidars. In fact, Tesla uses camera sensors above all.
However, researchers at Audi and MIT have developed algorithms that allow 3D information to be calculated from the camera images. Whether that is Tesla’s plan is unclear, but it cannot be ruled out. We can just hope that the update in August will provide more safety. Not only Tesla’s reputation is at stake, but also that of autonomous driving technology as such.
About the author:
David Fluhr is journalist and owner of the digital magazine “Autonomes Fahren & Co”. He is reporting regularly about trends and technologies in the fields Autonomous Driving, HMI, Telematics and Robotics. Link to his site: http://www.autonomes-fahren.de