One key feature of Tesla cars is Autopilot. Autopilot is a driver assisting feature that helps takes the burden of the most intensive task of the driving process away from the driver. Allowing the driver to focus on monitoring the car and its surroundings.
A Brief History
Tesla’s Autopilot feature has been around since 2014. Software and hardware upgrades have been made since then to give the feature more features and capabilities.
All Tesla vehicles made between September 2014 and October 2016 had the initial hardware to support Autopilot. Called Hardware 1. At the time, Autopilot did not include semi-autonomous driving and parking. Software to make this hardware functional was released in October 2015.
In October 2016, all Tesla vehicles made from then on came with updated hardware, called Hardware 2. Hardware 2 had all the necessary sensing and computing hardware to support full self-driving. The Hardware 2 capabilities not present in Hardware 1 referred to by Tesla as Enhanced Autopilot. These include partial self-driving capabilities, automatic lane changes, transitioning from one freeway to another, freeway exiting and more. Software supporting these features then came in February 2017.
From August 2017, Hardware 2.5 appeared in cars.
In March 2019, Hardware 3 started being fitted into the cars being made, it had 2 Tesla-designed microprocessors. And in April 2019, software updates came which included lane changes without driver confirmation. But it does require your hand to be on the wheel. In September 2019, version 10 of its software was released
The features now available on autopilot includes
Adaptive Cruise control: This allows the vehicle to maintain a safe distance from the vehicles around it, the car automatically accelerates and brakes as the vehicle in front of it move.
Autopilot now displays a visualization of vehicles in all directions, stop signs, lane markings speed limits, distinguish pedestrians from cyclists and motorcyclists.
It also features Autopark which lets the car automatically park, whether parallel or perpendicular.
Autosteer steers the car to maintain its current lane also called lane keeping.
Safety features; Autopilot detects potential front or side collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians or cyclists at a distance of 160 m or 525 feet.
Navigate on Autopilot. The vehicle can change lanes automatically, or move to a more appropriate lane, exit freeways and navigate freeway interchanges,
Summon is a feature that allows the vehicle to move in and out of tight spaces using the Teslas’ phone app or key fob.
Full self-driving; Tesla says Hardware 3 has all the capabilities to support full self-driving and current software will be updated to an as of yet unknown date.
How Tesla Autopilot works.
AI is essential for the Autopilot features of Tesla vehicles. And for all types of AIs to work well, it needs training data.
That’s where the cars come in. Every Tesla ever made has been fitted with loads of sensors and cameras that record information as the car is being driven daily. All this data is uploaded to the cloud where machine learning algorithms continually use the data to improve the object detection and Autopilot feature of Teslas Autopilot. Considering how many Tesla cars are on the road right now, that’s a lot of data.
All this data is being used to generate highly detailed data-dense maps showing how the road is being used by human drivers. From the average increase in traffic speed throughout the road to the locations of hazards that cause human drivers to take action
Machine learning teaches the entire fleet of vehicles on how to drive using this data. While at an individual car level, edge computing done by the hardware on the vehicles decides what to do right now.
Also, Tesla vehicles can form small networks with other Tesla vehicles around and share information.
Tesla continually stresses the fact that Autopilot is not a replacement to drivers and that while autopilot is engaged, the drivers should continually keep their hands on the steering wheel and monitor the vehicle.