Elon Musk has said he hopes to introduce the latest version of Tesla's Autopilot software next week. The update comes after a Tesla Model S driver was killed in a fatal car crash while using Autopilot in May. On Twitter this morning, Musk said that he is "hoping to start [the] rollout" of the new software on Wednesday, "if no last minute issues [are] discovered."
The main change to Autopilot will be an increased reliance on radar, a sensor that was added to Tesla vehicles in October 2014, but was only intended to be supplementary to the primary camera. "After careful consideration, we now believe [radar] can be used as a primary control sensor without requiring the camera to confirm visual image recognition," wrote Musk in a blog post on Sunday.
Fixing the problem of false positives
The update will also include a "geocoded whitelist" of objects like road signs and bridges that the radar might otherwise be in danger of identifying as obstacles, leading to unnecessary — and possibly dangerous — braking. This sort of misidentification of objects is crucial to safe autonomous driving.
The fatal crash in May was caused by just such an issue, with the Autopilot software ignoring a truck turning into the car's path because it identified is an overhead road sign. Last week in a conference call, Musk told journalists that he believed the upgraded Autopilot system would not have made the same mistake. The update will be delivered over the air to eligible vehicles.