What happens if you fall asleep in a Tesla while it is on autopilot?
By Michael Krewson
The family of a man killed while driving his Tesla Model S on Autopilot broke silence Monday, saying that they do not believe the vehicle or the car’s technology was responsible for his death.
Joshua Brown was killed after his Model S collided with the side of a truck near Williston, Florida. The vehicle was in Autopilot mode when it drove beneath the side of a turning tractor trailer, shearing off the top portion of the Model S and killing the driver.
“We heard numerous times that the car killed our son. That is simply not the case,” said the statement from the family. “There was a small window of time when neither Joshua nor the Tesla features noticed the truck making the left-hand turn in front of the car.”
“People die every day in car accidents,” the statement said. “Change always comes with risks, and zero tolerance for deaths would totally stop innovation and improvements.”
The death has sparked a nationwide debate over the safety of autonomous vehicle technology, with the National Transportation Safety Board scheduled to hold a vote in Washington on the cause of the crash.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did not find any technological defects in the crash. It also found that Brown didn’t press the brake before the crash, and had touched the wheel for only 25 seconds in the 37 minute period leading up to the crash.
Tesla supported the family, releasing a statement about the incident.
“Josh Brown was a friend to Tesla, and as his family articulated so eloquently, a passionate advocate for technology. Our thoughts are with the entire Brown family,” Tesla said in a statement.
Tesla has recently released software updates to its Autopilot program, and some have noticed increased data gathering as the company continues to develop safe, practical self-driving technology.
Tesla Autopilot technology also includes certain safeguards, like requiring the driver to touch the wheel to ensure he or she is still engaged while in Autopilot mode.
CEO Elon Musk has committed to a fully autonomous ride from Los Angeles to New York by the end of the year.
Despite the crash, the family said that it “takes solace and pride in the fact that our son is making such a positive impact on future highway safety.”
By Michael Krewson
Tesla revealed in early May that it had begun collecting short video clips from the cameras found on Model S and Model X vehicles that are equipped with the Autopilot 2.0 hardware suite. The announcement was made through an over-the-air software update, and ahead of the recent ‘smooth as silk’ Autopilot update, that prompted drivers with a new Data Sharing policy.
“We are working hard to improve autonomous safety features and make self-driving a reality for you as soon as possible.” read the firmware notes. “In order to do so, we need to collect short video clips using the car’s external cameras to learn how to recognize things like lane lines, street signs and traffic light positions. The more fleet learning of road conditions we are able to do, the better your Tesla’s self-driving ability will become.”
We now have a first visual that shows an increase in outbound data being uploaded from a Model S and back to Tesla servers beginning in May. Model S owner and redditor kutrod posted a photo that clearly shows an increasing amount of data being uploaded from their Model S over time.
“I think the neural net mining is just starting. This is my router view since 17.17.4 on AP2. I know they are uploading mini vids, but I think the data collection is just picking up and sum of all data will be monstrous” says kutrod on a post made to the Tesla subreddit.
It’s unconfirmed if Tesla has enabled data collection from all eight cameras on Model S and Model X vehicles equipped with Full Self-Driving hardware. But given the number of improvements being made to the company’s Enhanced Autopilot feature and Musk’s plan to demonstrate a fully autonomous drive from California to New York by the end of 2017, and one can presume that a massive amount of fleet data is being collected from the car’s camera and radar suite, and then uploaded to the Silicon Valley electric car giant by the minute.
The implications of this increased data collection are staggering. Tesla is applying machine learning technology to the driving videos and data it collects to create a self-driving model around a 3D map of all city streetscapes. This virtual world that is being built and constantly refined in near real-time has paramount significance in Tesla’s vision for a safe and reliable autonomous self-driving future.
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Tesla starts rollout of new ‘silky smooth’ Autopilot 2.0 with perpendicular autopark & auto display brightnessBy Michael Krewson
Today, Tesla started the rollout of a new software update for its fleet of vehicles equipped with second generation Autopilot hardware.
The new update features what CEO Elon Musk called a ‘silky smooth’ new control algorithm for Autosteer, as well as automatic perpendicular parking and automatic display brightness adjustments.
Update: the software update also includes full speed Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), which was previously restricted to low-speed.
A Tesla spokesperson confirmed to Electrek that the update is not being pushed over-the-air yet, but it is being rolled into the new vehicles coming out of the Fremont factory and vehicles going into service.
By the end of the week, the fleet should start receiving the update over-the-air as promised by Musk at the shareholder meeting last week.
Some Tesla owners had complained that the Autosteer and TACC were rougher than what they were used to with the last few updates, but the CEO reassured owners last month by saying that an upcoming new algorithm would fix that:
We were able to confirm with Tesla that the new update includes those improvements.
On top of the new control algorithm, Tesla is also pushing two features from the first generation Autopilot that were still missing on the vehicles with second generation hardware.
Here are the release notes:
Autopark: Perpendicular Parking
To make it easier to park in a variety of situations, Model S can now also back up into perpendicular spaces using Autopark. Drive completely past the space at no more than 10 mph until the ‘P’ appears in the instrument panel. Then use the same Autopark functions as in parallel Autopark – starting canceling, pausing, resuming, and so on.
With Display Brightness, you can clearly see the touchscreen and instrument panel throughout the day and night. This feature adjusts screen brightness based on your Model S surroundings. It also learns from your preferences: if you adjust the brightness manually, Display Brightness uses your update to make future adjustments.
Display Brightness is enabled by default. To disable, uncheck Auto-adjust in Controls > Displays > BRIGHTNESS & MODES.
Autopark was already available for parallel parking, but perpendicular parking was one of the few features that were still preventing full parity with the first generation Autopilot.
The original system was powered by Mobileye technology, but Tesla has been developing the same features using its own computer vision technology on the new hardware.
While we still have to see what Musk meant by a “silky smooth” Autosteer with some test drives, it looks like this update could mark the start of the transition from just feature parity to Tesla starting the actual transition to the new ‘Enhanced Autopilot’. Though it apparently still doesn’t feature the automatic windshield wipers for some reason.
At the shareholder meeting last week, Musk reiterated that the improvements on Autopilot will eventually lead to Tesla demonstrating a completely autonomous coast-to-coast drive by the end of the year.