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September 12, 2016

Tesla readies software update to boost safety after fatal crash

Upgrade of Autopilot will make more prominent use of radar.

By Alexander Sword

Automaker Tesla is issuing an update to its autonomous driving software that CEO Elon Musk claims would likely have prevented a fatality that happened in May.

The new update to the Autopilot system, Version 8, will make more prominent use of radar to process signals from the car’s surroundings.

Until now the radar has been used as an auxiliary sensor to the vehicles’ main cameras. Radar was initially added to Tesla vehicles in October 2014 as part of the Autopilot hardware suite. In a blog post on its site, the company said that issues around radar, including potential over-sensitivity, had now been navigated.

Tesla said that radar will now be used as a primary control sensor without requiring confirmation from the camera. This will involve fleet learning, which will monitor the actions of other vehicles in response to a hazard and use this information to determine what the Tesla should do.

The update will be rolled out through a software update over the next few weeks.

According to Reuters, CEO Musk said on a call with journalists that it was “very likely” that the new update would have prevented the death of  Joshua Brown in a collision with a truck.

Earlier this year the 40-year-old died on a Florida highway while using the Autopilot, which features various systems such as Autosteer and Auto Lane Change.

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The systems utilise cameras, radar, ultrasonic sensors and data to automatically steer down the highway, change lanes, and adjust speed in response to traffic.

Tesla claims that the features help the car prevent hazards and reduce the driver’s workload.

Brown died after both he and the car failed to apply the brakes before the collision.

The new update will add a number of other safety features such as amplified braking through the automatic brakes and restrictions on the Autosteer functionality.

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