Like on MASH, Tesla calls on radar to solve its problems

Autopilot is getting some changes and upgrades in Version 8.

There has been no shortage of questions about Tesla's Autopilot software in the past few months. Spurred, in part, by a fatal crash in May, people have been wondering if the self-driving technology has been oversold and if it's ready for prime time. Tesla has always expressed confidence in Autopilot, even as it constantly referred to it as a beta product that was not meant to replace the driver. Not yet, anyway.

Over the weekend, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a change in the way that the radar sensors in Autopilot-equipped vehicles will operate, including the ability to sneak a peek past the car in front of you by bouncing the radar signal under it, the company wrote in a blog post. True to Tesla's cheeky nature, the post talks about the difficulty of seeing a UFO in intermittent weather, but with the improved Autopilot, "the car in front might hit the UFO in dense fog, but the Tesla will not."

The upgraded Autopilot does not require more sensors (and still no lidar), just an upgrade to Version 8 of the software (which can be done over-the-air). This update brings "more advanced signal processing" to the car, which allows the system to better identify the things in the world around it, like metal cans on the road, signs, UFOs. The update is a shift away from relying mostly on the primary camera and image processing system and using radar only as a supplement. Another big change is that Autosteer might take over the car if it detects that the probability of a collision is 100 percent.

And it's hard to not appreciate this last line in the press release/blog post. After listing over a dozen other changes to the system, the company says there are also, "approximately 200 small enhancements that aren't worth a bullet point." Nice.

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