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FILE - In this Monday, April 25, 2016, file photo, staff members talk with visitors as they sit inside a Tesla Model S electric car on display at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in Beijing. With all the attention paid to Tesla Motors’ Autopilot system, you’d think the company was the only one making cars that can almost drive themselves. But many automakers have rolled out cars that do what Teslas do. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

Tesla releasing update of Autopilot software that relies more heavily on radar sensing


Tesla Motors Chief Executive Elon Musk said Sunday that the automaker is releasing an update to its Autopilot software in the coming weeks. 

"I think it will make the Model S and X by far the safest car on the road," Musk said during a press call. "It's both going to improve the safety and improve the usefulness and comfort level of the system." 

In May of 2016, Tesla driver Joshua Brown died when the vehicle's Autopilot system failed to recognize a truck was turning in front of him. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been investigating the company's autopilot system since June because of the fatality. 

Version 8 of Tesla's autopilot software will rely more heavily on radar sensing in addition to a camera for identifying objects in the vehicle's path, according to CNN.  

Tesla said at the time of Brown's death, Autopilot did not identify the white side of the tractor trailer. 

With the new software, radar alone can initiate breaking. Musk told Tech Crunch the new system should detect "anything that's metallic, anything that's large and dense."

He added that the system can also brake when it doesn't recognize what an object in its path is -- which Musk suggests could have prevented Brown's death. 

The Autopilot software will also be able to recognize false positives, which will prevent the vehicle from braking for something like a billboard or a soda can. 

Musk also noted an Autosteer update. He said beginning soon, even when Autosteer isn't on, a new feature will allow the vehicle to nudge drivers back onto the road if it's confident the person is in danger of running off the road. 

I do want to emphasize that this does not mean perfect safety. Perfect safety is really an impossible goal.
Elon Musk

Musk said the update will be sent to drivers in one to two weeks, according to CNN. 

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