Tesla Motors started pushing a software update to its Autopilot system that disables automatic steering for drivers that aren’t paying attention. The update also adds better voice commands and improved radar to its semi-autonomous driving mode and a feature that keeps kids and pets from overheating, an industry first.
Tesla has come under fire recently after a handful of accidents, at least one fatal, caused by its Autopilot system. Some of the problem, it seems, stems from a failure to properly communicate what the feature actually does. When most of us hear Autopilot, we think hands-free guidance and autonomous driving. Tesla, on the other hand, sees it as a feature meant to ‘aid’ a driver, not take over completely.
The feature uses camera and radar to maintain speed, brake automatically and change lanes without any input from the driver. It’s not, however, meant to provide entirely autonomous travel.
New updates will reign in expectation a bit by warning the driver three times to place their hands on the wheel before automatic steering disengages and refuses to reengage until the car is parked. Earlier versions slowed the car to a stop if these warnings were ignored.
Additional updates coming allow the car to automatically remove around slower vehicles, navigate highway interchanges, adapt speed at curves (based on previous driver data) and speed up destination searches using voice commands.