The Tesla team is continually improving Autopilot, the technology that allows Tesla vehicles to nearly drive themselves under supervision, and new updates are being released on a regular basis. As the number of Tesla vehicles grow, Tesla is able to collect ever-more information from the fleet’s onboard cameras and sensors. It uses this data to ‘teach’ the Autopilot neural network (AI) how to become a better virtual driver.
What Can We Expect in the Future?
Longer Term – “Full Self Driving”
Of course, the big promise from Tesla has been “Full Self Driving” (FSD), which would allow cars to fully drive themselves but there have been numerous delays bringing that promise to fruition, as the challenge has been much greater than auto manufacturers have expected. However, with the advanced AI hardware being released in 2019, it’s hoped that FSD will be on the horizon soon.
Near Term – Enhanced Autopilot Improvements
Navigate-on-Autopilot was the big news in late 2019, allowing Tesla vehicles with Enhanced Autopilot to fully navigate from “on-ramp” to “off-ramp” on freeways, only requiring the confirmation of suggested lane changes by the driver. Tesla has said that once enough ‘real-world’ data has been gathered, they expect to release an option allowing the vehicles to automatically change lanes.
When asked how things were coming along to remove the lane change confirmation, Elon tweeted the following:
Pretty good. I have confirmation turned off on my engineering build & interventions are rare. Probably ready to enable no confirmation setting next month.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 15, 2018
Autopilot on City Streets?
Other smaller, but significant updates are slated soon, according to Elon. In mid-December 2018 Elon tweeted that Tesla is working on the following enhancements that would make using Autopilot on city streets much safer (it’s not recommended today):
- Traffic light detection
- Stop sign detection
- Navigation of roundabouts
Here’s his tweet:
Already testing traffic lights, stop signs & roundabouts in development software. Your Tesla will soon be able to go from your garage at home to parking at work with no driver input at all.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 9, 2018
Musk also claimed that Tesla owners should soon be able to drive from home to work without any driver interaction at all. The Tesla CEO did not have a timeline for these rollouts, except that they would occur in 2019. He also didn’t elaborate as to how much testing, simulations or software upgrades Tesla plans on making before these features go live
Another hurdle faced by Tesla comes from the federal government. There are no laws on the books that mandate the regulation of autonomous vehicles on the road. Even if Tesla Autopilot moves closer to fully autonomous driving, it is unclear what, if any, effect it may have on drivers.
Several videos posted to the internet by Tesla and Tesla drivers show that some vehicles already navigate city traffic, stop signs and traffic lights just fine on Autopilot. Still, Tesla warns drivers that they must still be fully alert and ready to take over when Autopilot is engaged.
In conclusion, it’s exciting to see new features roll out as the over-the-air software updates are one of the things that make Tesla so special.
What do you want to see in future software updates?