Tesla started updating the software for its Autopilot system Thursday morning, giving thousands of drivers who own a Model S or Model X an enhanced version of its driver assistance system.
The upgrade comes amid a debate over the safety of this system, which heated up in late June after the company said a Model S owner was killed while his vehicle was in that mode. The system did not see a tractor-trailer turning in front of his Tesla vehicle, which slammed into the truck.
"It is extremely important to get this right because Tesla is really alone in the ability to drive the vehicle with the people being able to take their hands off the wheel for an extended period of time," said Jake Fisher of Consumer Reports.
Here's what Tesla's improved with its Autopilot 8.0 software:
- Tesla now incorporates the onboard radar to give the vehicles a better view of the road, traffic ahead and potential obstacles;
- Autopilot now can see two cars ahead, so Tesla vehicles will react faster when there is sudden braking on the highway;
- Autosteer now navigates highway interchanges;
- Enhanced warnings keep drivers engaged. If drivers ignore repeated warnings, the new software will disable Autosteer until drivers stop and re-engage the system.