"If you have a Tesla built in the last two years, try navigating with Autopilot – it’ll take your breath away!” said Elon Musk recently. The new version of the driver aid system is indeed said to be capable of negotiating roundabouts on its own as well as recognising stop signs and traffic lights, taking a further step towards total autonomy.
Photo credits: Tesla
As is his wont, Elon Musk used Twitter to announce on 9 December that he had experimented with the autonomous driving on board his personal Model S, using Autopilot. According to the Tesla CEO, the level two driver aid system is now capable of negotiating roundabouts and identifying stop signs as well as traffic lights, thanks to a completely new adaptation of its "neuron network". "Your Tesla will soon be capable of going from your garage at home to the car park at your place of work with no driver intervention," said French website Presse-Citron.
Navigate – a new function soon able to direct Teslas "with no driver intervention"
Autopilot 9.0 now has a new function called Navigate on Autopilot, which currently can only be used on Tesla Model S, X and 3 vehicles produced in the last two years and sold in the USA and Canada. It is a beta version that is capable of negotiating turns if the original route so dictates.
The driver still needs to put the indicators on, but the next version of Navigate is set to include artificial intelligence in the system that will manage all tasks, "with no driver intervention", meaning that the vehicle will come to a halt at stop signs, react to the colour of traffic lights, take into account the laws of the highway code when taking roundabouts and motorway feeder roads, manage overtaking and lane changing, moving into and out of overtaking lanes etc.
Elon Musk has not given an exact date for the availability of this 100% autonomous version of Autopilot, but did nevertheless mention "the end of next year". He also said that the system update "would require the production of a new neuron network computer in the first quarter of 2019".
Patent registered by Tesla for more high-performance GPS
One of the most critical requirements of 100% autonomy of the future is high-definition maps, with a margin of error no greater than 20 centimetres. According to the website Les Numériques, Google, Here and TomTom are already working furiously to produce ultra-accurate maps capable of evolving in real time using localisation data coupled with information collected by the sensors integrated into autonomous vehicles already out on the streets (via lidars, radars, cameras and ultrasound sensors).
Tesla is also focusing on GPS positioning and last year registered a patent entitled "Technologies for the positioning of vehicles" which covers the combination of data from Tesla vehicles on the streets in circulation, described as "cooperative reference stations", and from various solutions including video surveillance cameras "in order to share raw GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) data and carry out adjustments to positioning".
Cover photo credits: jurvetson (Steve Jurvetson)/Wikimedia Commons
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