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Tesla working on Autopilot changes

International Business
Sun, 17 Jul 2016

Detroit: Tesla Motors is working on modifications to its Autopilot system after it failed to stop for a tractor-trailer rig in a Florida crash that killed the driver of a Model S sedan.

Chief executive Elon Musk, in a Twitter post, said Tesla is working on improvements to the radar system. Autopilot uses cameras, radar and computers to detect objects and automatically brake if a Tesla vehicle is about to hit something.

But in the May 7 crash that killed Joshua D Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, cameras in his Tesla Model S failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky, and the car didn’t automatically brake, the company has said. Signals from radar sensors also didn’t stop the car, and Brown didn’t take control either.

Tesla wouldn’t comment on Musk’s tweets or possible changes to Autopilot, which is being scrutinised by two US government agencies. Whatever changes are made have broad implications for Tesla and other carmakers, who either have similar technology in place or are about ready to put it on the road as they move towards fully autonomous driving within the next decade.

Just after the crash was made public June 30, Musk gave an indication in a tweet that the radar was discounted in the Florida crash. His tweet, which since has been removed from Twitter, said that radar “tunes out” objects like an overhead road sign to avoid stopping the car for no reason. Experts say this means that the radar likely overlooked the tractor-trailer in the Florida crash.

Musk tweeted that the company is working on changes that would “decouple” the Autopilot’s radar from its cameras and allow the radar to spot objects with fewer data points. Car sensors produce so much data that computers can’t process it all. So fewer data points are needed for self-driving systems to work.

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