Elon Musk Says Tesla Autopilot Is Getting an Upgrade Within Weeks

Tesla Motors Inc. Tests Self-Driving Technology
Photograph by Bloomberg — Getty Images

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk says that his electric car company Tesla Motors plans to update its Autopilot software within a few weeks to improve how data from the radar system is processed.

Musk made the comments via Twitter on Wednesday morning, adding he’ll release more details of the Autopilot software upgrades “8.0” and “8.1” on Tesla’s website later today.

Tesla’s autopilot software, which was launched last October, uses sensors like radar and a camera, combined with computing, software, and wireless technology to take over various parts of driving like lane changing and steering. It’s available on many of Tesla’s new Model S and Model X cars.

But earlier this summer, Tesla (TSLA) revealed that there had been a fatal accident while Autopilot was engaged. Regulators decided to investigate the accident and Tesla’s Autopilot system. Other Tesla customers have complained that Autopilot hasn’t worked correctly and has caused accidents, though Tesla has denied most of those claims.

At the same time, Tesla has always approached software and systems on its car as having the capability to be improved over time, taking into account customer feedback. Soon after debuting the Autopilot software last year, and months before the fatal accident, the company decided to update the software and restrict some of its capabilities.

Some Tesla customers were using the software to completely drive the car itself, while they took their hands off the wheel. Tesla has repeatedly said that customers need to still be engaged with driving and keep their hands on the wheel.

Tesla can update software on its cars using wireless networks, called an “over-the-air software” update, similar to how cell phone updates are transmitted.

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Musk explained on Twitter on Wednesday that the new Autopilot software will have more advanced processing of radar signals, meaning it will likely be able to better detect some objects that could be harder to see because of light, color or weather.

For more on Tesla’s new high energy battery pack, watch:

In the fatal accident with the Tesla car this summer, the driver collided with a tractor-trailer in an unusual situation in which the software didn’t detect it partly because of the white color of the tractor-trailer against the bright sky. Such an update could help isolate the radar signals and better process these more difficult situations.

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