Look Ma, No Hands

In October 2014, Tesla began production of the Model S with self driving technology implemented into the car. This technology consists of a forward looking radar and camera, twelve long range ultrasonic sensors, positioned to sense 16 feet around the car in every direction, at any speed, and lastly a high precision digitally controlled electric braking system. Though in its infinite stages, this was the beginning of autonomous driving.

A year later in October 2015, Tesla released software update 7.0 which delivered a variety of new safety and driving feedback modules. These modules work hand in hand with automated driving hardware features previously available in the Model S.  With new software features, Tesla represented the only automotive company that offers its customers a fully integrated autonomous driving system.

What makes the 7.0 update such a game changer though? Well let me tell you! The feedback modules installed now allow Tesla to use Big Data to further increase the safety and performance of autonomous driving.

Tesla Model S Dashboard

The feedback modules consist of the camera, radar, ultrasonic, and GPS. When these systems are turned on, or in other words, when using autopilot, it sends real time data feedback from the Tesla fleet. This means that these systems are continuously learning and improving upon itself. Look at yourself not as the owner of a Tesla, but a master trainer. Autopilot’s current features include: “ability to steer within a lane, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal, manage speeds using traffic aware cruise control, internal digital control over brakes, steering, and electric motors. This helps prevent collisions from the front and sides as well as stopping your car from driving off the road.” Additionally, if you are looking to parallel park, simply pull along side the available spot, and the Tesla will park on command.

Even a month after the release of update 7.0, Tesla owners already started reporting noticeable growth in the autopilot capabilities. On the Tesla Motors Club forum, a P85D owner noticed that the Tesla had began following the highway more accurately and learning what exit ramps were.

“So far I have a little over 300 miles on autopilot, mostly 20 miles at a time on my commute to and from work. The first day when I was in the right lane, as I approached exit ramps, it would dive for the exit ramp. I quickly learned to apply torque to the wheel to hold the car on the interstate until I had passed the exit. Each day the system seems to have less tendency to follow the exit ramps as I pass. The last two days it only gave a momentary wiggle and moved over maybe six inches towards the exit ramp then it recovered and moved on down the road. This morning it gave only a very slight hesitation, so little that I did not have to correct it at all. I find it remarkable that it is improving this rapidly. I wonder if it is getting more information on this section of road or if it is changing how it reacts to any exit ramp?” – username: Mobe

Present day, Tesla is gathering about one million miles of data per day. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, stated, “The capability will [keep improving over time] both from a standpoint of all the extra drivers but also in terms of the software functionality” Tesla has taken leaps of faith in the past trying to persuade the public that electric transportation is the future. Now, I can only expect Tesla to take similar measures with autonomous driving is next.