Tesla started pushing out a new software update (2019.8.3) last night to Model 3 owners that adds capability to detect and warn the driver in the event that it looks like the driver is going to run a red light. The new update is some of the first functionality in Tesla’s Autopilot solution with a specific non-freeway driving focus.
Recognizing stop lights is nothing new for Tesla, but building that capability into Autosteer is the first time the functionality is actually being used to change the behavior of the car. In normal operations, Autosteer beta keeps the car in the lane and driving safely at or below the max speed set point. In the event that it comes up to a red light or stop sign, the car would previously simply roll on through like nothing was happening, but this update changes all of that.
The new update opens the door to a completely new set of off-freeway driving for Tesla owners with Autopilot. As you would expect, the functionality was pushed out with the usual disclaimers and, importantly, it will not stop the car, but instead, warns the driver. “Your car may warn you in some cases if it detects that you are about to run a red light while Autosteer is in use. This is not a substitute for an attentive driver and will not stop the car.”
This update is clearly a step forward towards fully capable city driving and does so in a way that provides a benefit to drivers without building up a false reliance on a system that’s not fully baked. That’s super important for life-critical functionality like stop lights and intersections, where one wrong move or missed light could very easily result in a fatal accident. Instead, using the functionality to warn drivers adds value and improves the safety of the vehicles while vetting important functionality in a production environment.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said very clearly on a podcast with ARK Invest that he expects Tesla’s Full Self Driving solution to be “feature complete” by the end of this year. He added a firm caveat that “feature complete” was not the same as functioning perfectly in every scenario and gave the company an extra year for that, stating that he expected that drivers would be able to simply get into the car and take a nap by the end of next year. Either one of those may be in Elon time, but there is no denying that Tesla has made significant progress in improving its newly restructured Autopilot and Full-Self Driving solutions in the last 12 months.
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