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Tesla to improve Autopilot with heavier reliance on radar

By Shawn Knight
Sep 11, 2016
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  1. Tesla Motors on Sunday outlined a number of enhancements that’ll arrive in version eight of its Autopilot software including a more prominent role for the radar system that was added to all vehicles in October 2014.

    Up to this point, the radar system has been used solely as a supplementary sensor to the primary camera and image processing system. After careful consideration, however, Tesla believes radar can be used as a primary control sensor alongside the camera rather than simply supplementing it.

    Because of how strange the world looks in radar, the challenge in using it as a primary detection system is to avoid false alarms.

    A discarded soda can on the road with its concave bottom facing the vehicle, for example, can appear to radar as a much larger (and potentially dangerous) object. That’s because metallic objects look like a mirror to radar and those with a dish shape can amplify the signal to many times its actual size. Having the car hit the brakes every time it sees a non-threatening object such as this would be annoying at best and at worst, could cause injury.

    To solve the issue, Tesla said version 8.0 of its software unlocks access to six times as many radar objects with a lot more information per object. The system will also assemble radar snapshots – captured every tenth of a second – into a 3D “picture” of the world. This will help the system determine if an object is moving and help determine the probability of a collision.

    Tesla described another situation that’s difficult for radar to handle and how they plan to tackle it.

    A vehicle approaching an overhead highway road sign that is positioned on the rise in the road or a bridge where the road dips underneath can appear to the system as a potential obstruction. Navigation and GPS data isn’t enough to determine whether or not the car will pass under the sign / bridge and by the time the pitch in the road changes, it’s too late.

    In such situations, fleet learning (in which vehicles report to a Tesla database the position of road signs, bridges and other stationary objects) comes in handy. With other vehicles having already mapped out the area, fleet data can be used to help other vehicles navigating the same stretch of road determine what is safe and thus, cut back on excessive, unnecessary braking.

    Other quick-hit changes in the coming update include the ability for a vehicle in Autopilot mode to offset its position in a lane when overtaking a vehicle driving close to the lane edge and the use of amplified braking in an emergency.

    Tesla also said that after further data gathering, a car will activate Autosteer to help avoid a collision when the probability of impact is ~100 percent. What’s more, a Tesla vehicle will not be able to reengage Autopilot until it has been put into park if a user has ignored repeated alertness warnings.

    Tesla owners can expect the new software to arrive in the coming weeks.

    Lead image courtesy David Paul Morris, Getty Images

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  2. Bigtruckseries

    Bigtruckseries TS Maniac Posts: 401   +209

    When I was a kid my mom's car (Mercury Cougar XR7) had cruise control even she showed me how it worked, but explained to me that you can't take itfor granted... you are still responsible for the car.

    Autopilot is the next evolution in cruise control. It is an extremely important evolution.

    You can get into a car and have it drive you from point A to B- doing its best to avoid collisions.

    But without AI, cars will never fully be "autonomous".

    Only a true AI can ANTICIPATE and plan ahead.

    At current, autopilot can only *react* to sensor information.

    Sensors limited in range.

    Reactions limited in complexity.

    And there are so many unanswered questions.

    What happens if a car must make a choice between hitting a kid who walked into the road or swerving off the road and killing the passengers in the car?

    How will the car know to stop is Police pursue it? How will the car know to stop for "visual stops" like on the side of school buses?

    Technology is great, but there is NO COMPUTER SMART ENOUGH to replace an attentive human - simply because the human can reason in ways the technology can't.

    Falling Trees?

    Inclement weather?

    How will this car know NOT to take me through the most violent parts of Chicago or Camden - even if it's the fastest and most efficient route?
     
    Reehahs likes this.
  3. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 1,660   +767

    Hmmmmmmmm ..... all excellent points but honestly, if he can't simply refuel a rocket without blowing the darn thing up, I'm certainly not going to let him drive me around!
     
  4. yRaz

    yRaz TS Evangelist Posts: 1,897   +940

    >he
    >refuel a rocket
    >drive

    He wasn't the one refueling the rocket, his engineers at SpaceX were. elon musk doesn't do anything but pay people to do stuff he is unable to.

    The engineers at Tesla are not the ones at SpaceX, so the refueling incident didn't have anything to do with Tesla

    I get it that Elon Musk is arrogant and a controversial character, but people need to stop spitting nonsense in order to fuel the hate train.

    I want reuseable rockets, cheaper spaceflight and electric cars. I don't care who's doing it, I just want it done.
     
  5. EClyde

    EClyde TS Guru Posts: 705   +180

    Oh Yea..That'll work :-(
     
  6. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,536   +2,335

    In Tesla Model S, radar watch you!
     
  7. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 1,035   +269

    Nothing in this article gives me the warm fuzzies. Tesla might just as well have said, "Well, we're working on it. We've decided on using yet another technology that is fast, cheap, and easy because it is fast, cheap, and easy. Some more people might just get killed, but eventually, we will figure out how to do it correctly."

    I am definitely on the side of Musk being an arrogant brat, but he should consider that lives depend on this technology, and that he should not put this in production cars until it has enough time on it to prove it is safe.

    There comes a time when you have to value human life over being the first to do something or having it out there because it is generating sales. If he fails to consider the human aspect and the safety aspect of this in favor of rushing the product to the production lines for whatever reason, my bet is we will read about him in the future and it will be yet another failure.
     
  8. lripplinger

    lripplinger TS Addict Posts: 258   +89

    Trying to implement some sort of autopilot on cars is a very different thing from airplanes. I just don't see this ever working right now. I also fail to see the point of it. Plus people have already been killed because the system is easily fooled.
     
  9. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 1,035   +269

    Well, they are apparently moving to radar from a passive camera that was easily fooled. Only what the article says about radar is what disturbs me. It sounds like the radar could also easily be fooled.
     
  10. lripplinger

    lripplinger TS Addict Posts: 258   +89

    Yeah, I agree. This just has failure written all over it.
     

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