Tesla updates Autopilot: Seeing the World in Radar


Tesla has revamped its Autopilot semi-autonomous driving technology with an incremental update designed to improve collision prevention.

The version 8.0 update will, for the first time, use the car’s onboard radar as a primary control sensor without requiring the camera to confirm visual image recognition. Previously, the radar was only used as a supplementary sensor to the primary forward-facing camera and image processing system. With the new update and thanks to more advanced signal processing, the radar will now be used as one of the main image sensor inputs to ‘stitch’ together a better picture of the world around it.


According to Tesla, version 8.0 unlocks access to six times as many radar objects with the same hardware with a lot more information per object. The radar snapshots are then assembled, which take place every tenth of a second, into a 3D “picture” of the world.

As it is hard to tell from a single frame whether an object is moving or stationary or to distinguish spurious reflections, the system compares several contiguous frames against vehicle speed and expected path to determine if something is real and assess the probability of collision.

forcegt tesla model 3 rear

The new software also introduces ‘fleet learning’, where Tesla’s vehicle fleet will take no action in confusing situation – such as approaching an overhead highway road sign positioned on a rise in the road or a bridge where the road dips underneath – except to note the position of road signs, bridges and other stationary objects, mapping the world according to radar.

The car computer will then silently compare when it would have braked to the driver action and upload that to the Tesla database. If several cars drive safely past a given radar object, whether Autopilot is turned on or off, then that object is added to the geocoded whitelist.

The update also adds other improvement to the Autopilot system, amongst them are:

  • Now able to ‘see’ two cars ahead using radar echo, improving cut-out response and reaction time to otherwise-invisible heavy braking events
  • Will take highway exit if indicator on (8.0) or if nav system active (8.1)
  • Car offsets in lane when overtaking a slower vehicle driving close to its lane edge
  • Interface alerts are much more prominent, including flashing white border on instrument panel
  • Improved cut-in detection using blinker on vehicle ahead
  • Reduced likelihood of overtaking in right lane in Europe
  • Improved auto lane change availability
  • Car will not allow reengagement of Autosteer until parked if user ignores repeated warnings
  • Automatic braking will now amplify user braking in emergencies
  • In manual mode, alerts driver if about to leave the road and no torque on steering wheel has been detected since Autosteer was deactivated
  • With further data gathering, car will activate Autosteer to avoid collision when probability is approaching 100%
  • Curve speed adaptation now uses fleet-learned roadway curvature

Read ForceGT’s Tesla Autopilot Review

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