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Tesla upgrades its self-driving tech

3’s company: Tesla has given all its vehicles – the Model S luxury sedan, the Model X SUV and the upcoming Model 3 – a substantial upgrade in its self-driving hardware and software.

Improved cameras, sensors and processors confirmed for all upcoming Tesla vehicles

20 Oct 2016

TESLA has announced hardware and software upgrades to its entire model range that will strengthen the self-driving foundation it has already begun laying with its first-generation Autopilot system.

Available across its three model range – the Model S large sedan, the Model X luxury SUV and the incoming entry-level Model 3 – the hardware changes amount to eight external cameras with full 360-degree views, 12 updated ultrasonic sensors and an enhanced forward-facing radar.

The new 360-degree cameras now have a viewing range of up to 250 metres, the ultrasonic sensors can detect objects at nearly twice the distance of the previous system and the upgraded radar will be used as the primary input for Tesla’s controversial Autopilot self-driving software.

To process the larger influx of information, a new computer – with more than 40 times the processing power of the previous computer – will be utilised to parse the visual, sonic and radar data.

However, the changes to the hardware and software suites means that some safety features will not be available ‘out of the box’ as Tesla works to collect more data to calibrate the systems.

These include autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist, but Tesla promised these features will be patched in via free over-the-air updates once they are ready.

According to Tesla, “this system provides a view of the world that a driver alone cannot access, seeing in every direction simultaneously and on wavelengths that go far beyond the human sense”.

Interestingly, in the press release announcing the new self-driving suite, Tesla makes no indication of calling its future autonomous driving system Autopilot, only referring to the previous system as such.

The electric vehicle maker has come under fire recently for the use of the Autopilot moniker – with some critics saying the name implies a fully functioning self-driving mode where in reality it is closer to a more feature-rich adaptive cruise control.

The revisions to Tesla’s self-driving hardware comes after a fatal crash earlier in this year involving its Autopilot system. Since the crash in May, Tesla has switched the main Autopilot sensor from a forward-facing camera to radar.

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