Automotive

Radar to play bigger role in safer Tesla Autopilot 8.0

Radar is designed to make Autopilot 8.0 more reliable
Radar is designed to make Autopilot 8.0 more reliable
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Tesla has updated Autopilot to rely more heavily on its radar sensors 
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Tesla has updated Autopilot to rely more heavily on its radar sensors 
Radar is designed to make Autopilot 8.0 more reliable
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Radar is designed to make Autopilot 8.0 more reliable

Tesla Autopilot launched to critical acclaim, but the hype has been tarnished by the death of an owner using the system in the USA. As an investigation into the accident that killed Joshua Brown continues, Tesla has given the driver assist system a significant upgrade. Thanks to more advanced signal processing, information from the inbuilt radar sensors can now be used to form a more accurate picture of a car's surroundings.

At the moment, radar plays a supplementary role to the camera systems in Autopilot. Although they're excellent at cutting through foggy, dusty, rainy or snowy conditions, radar sensors have a few factors limiting their effectiveness. Objects made of painted wood or plastic appear almost translucent to radar sensors, as do humans.

Meanwhile, curved metal surfaces amplify the radar signal, which means an aluminum can lying on the road could be misconstrued for a big, threatening object. Slamming the brakes on to avoid a semitrailer is a safety feature, slamming them on every time an errant can rolls across the road is annoying and dangerous.

To make sure this isn't an issue with the updated Autopilot system, Tesla's latest software can recognize up to six times more objects without any hardware tweaks. There's also a lot more information about each object within the software. Having taken a set of radar snapshots, the new software is able to assess them with the car's projected course and speed in mind. This helps it to work out whether a threat is real or just a false alarm.

Tesla has updated Autopilot to rely more heavily on its radar sensors 
Tesla has updated Autopilot to rely more heavily on its radar sensors 

Even with these steps in place, Tesla is going to continue to develop its fleet learning capabilities as the new radar heavy Autopilot rolls out. Overhead signs positioned at the top of a hill or placed at the entrance of a tunnel where the road dips away look like threats to radar.

Rather than slamming on the brakes, cars will simply note the position of bridges and tunnels without taking any action. The computer will make note of when it would have hit the brakes, along with what action the driver took. If a large number of drivers just cruise past a certain object radar thought was a threat, it will be added to a geocoded whitelist.

Should radar detect a threat, and the system data suggests the odds of a "false braking event" are slim, it will slowly increase brake pressure as it becomes more certain of the situation.

Along with this major improvement, which Tesla says would detect a UFO landing on a foggy highway, there are a heap of small tweaks to make Autopilot smoother in regular conditions - the camera can now detect indicators from cars in front as they're merging, and the car will automatically adjust its lane position to avoid drifting drivers. It'll also apply more brake pressure if the driver is being light on the pedal in an emergency, and the car can exit US highways if prompted by the indicator.

Source: Tesla Blog

4 comments
Daishi
When BMW builds their autonomous system to handle things like zipper mergers are they going to reflect it to automatically tailgate the person in front and not allow anyone to merge into that space to reflect the current driving habits of BMW owners? I'm not sure if I could ever own an autonomous car that feels like it accurately reflects me unless every essence of my insufferable pretentious smugness is carried on by the car itself in the absence of my own driving. Can I adjust the rudeness meter of the cars software to better reflect my personality? I'd also like mine to turn the horn from off to on any time the vehicle in front of me has more than a 200 ms delay responding to the now green traffic light. If the cars driving stop reflecting the personality of the owners I might as well just be riding in a Kia or something.
ezeflyer
Radar and Wi-Fi microwave radiation are going to produce a generation of blind people and sterile men.
Richard D. McDowell
I am not comfortable with all of this RF energy spewing out of adaptive cruise controls and now self driving cars. Microwave ovens are shielded because...?
notarichman
how about jamming via other radar car owners and policemen? would a police car putting out a radar signal tell the tesla owner anything? as for too much radiation; then the police radar is already here and has been for a long time. i can see problems with merging lanes and changing lanes. even though the laws have been on the books for decades, there are still people that think on ramp cars have the right of way. some on ramp drivers don't even look now, what will they do with auto-driving?
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