Tesla has released a big software overhaul mainly for the Autopilot software of its cards, although the new software brings some new features. Version 8.0 of Tesla's software began moving over the Internet to its electric vehicles Wednesday night.
First of all, have in mind that a Tesla on Autopilot is not a self-driving car. Think of it instead as the next level of cruise control. Once you pull the lever once, the car takes over acceleration and deceleration. OWhen you pull the lever twice, it takes over the steering, too. Autopilot will accelerate itself from a dead stop, keep you locked in your lane during tight turns, and hit the brakes to avoid collisions.
The new software brings hundreds of tweaks that add up to an improved experience behind the wheel. Here is a summary of the new features and enhancements:
- Tesla’s touchscreen control panel has a cleaner layout with new icons, new map views, and an much improved entertainment system.
- Autopilot is shifting toward more reliance on its radar than its camera to guide the car through traffic. Radar is unaffected by weather, and signals can be bounced beneath and around the cars in front of you. The instrument cluster now shows obstacles on the road that the driver couldn’t otherwise see - the cars in front of the cars in front of you.
- Tesla 8.0 is seeing obstacles in the road more clearly, including an increase in the number of bicycles/motorcycles that are being detected.
- The older Autopilot was the extreme fidelity to the center of the lane. Humans tend to give a truck a little more space and hug the outer edge of the lane. With the upgrade, the car is beginning to act a little more human, adjusting its position in the lane to account for perceived threats from the sides.
- Tesla 8.0 is beginning to steer around the slightly-out-of-lane cars when previously it might have stopped altogether or driven so close to a moving car that it required intervention.
- In order to keep the human drivers engaged, Tesla has improved the icons and warning soundsto make it clear when Autopilot is, or isn’t, on. The company has instituted is a series of warnings for people who haven’t touched the steering wheel for minutes at a time. A white outline flashes around the instrument panel reminding the driver to touch the wheel. Then an audible warning beeps and then Autopilot will disengage. Three such warnings over the course of an hour, and the screen lights up with bright red hands and a stark admonition: "Autosteer Unavailable for the Rest of This Drive." You actually have to put the car in park and go into settings to re-engage the feature.
- The Tesla 8.0 media player is more intuitive, with a powerful search engine that combs through radio stations and podcasts from TuneIn and Slacker. The "Favorites" category provides one-touch access to your favorite songs, stations, and podcasts from multiple Internet sources and the radio, all in one place.
- Google maps and charging data integration. It has a search functionality and the app will tell you how much charge you can expect to have left when you reach your destination. In addition, the voice controls were improved.
- "Cabin Overheat Protection" prevents the interior temperature from exceeding 105 degrees by kicking on the air conditioning even if no one is around. The idea is that this could prevent the accidental death of a child or dog left inside the car. It requires very little battery capacity to operate for a 12-hour stretch.