Published: November 6, 2015
Science & Tech Editor
Tesla Motors has been the highlight of many motor shows for the last several years, and they are once again at the forefront of many discussions that concern their new autopilot feature.
Only a few weeks ago, new owners of the Tesla Model S received a surprise when Tesla announced their intentions to incorporate an autopilot feature into their cars. Since then, the company has released the software update that enabled the autopilot feature on the Model S.
The autopilot feature functions because of a variety of sensors positioned around the car. There are two cameras on the car, one in the rear and one in the front. These two cameras gather information and use it to make decisions as to what it should do. On the sides of the car there are radar and ultrasonic sensors that determine your proximity to objects around you. The combination of these sensors and the car’s GPS allows the car to function mostly independent of the driver.
There are certain types of roadways that are not accommodated by the autopilot feature, and the feature does not eliminate the responsibility that comes with driving a car. The car’s autopilot functions similarly to the autopilot function found in airplanes and sailboats. The feature is more of a self-steering function; you still need to maintain constant vigilance when driving the car. The software learns from the environment and the driver’s interventions.
When driving the car, if the driver corrects a mistake made by the car, such as drifting off the road on exit ramps, it learns to not make the mistake again. Of course, the system of learning is not completely flawless and can take several times in order to perfectly correct it.
In addition to the corrections a person makes to their own car, any new information is shared among all Tesla Model S cars. This means you receive data not only from your own drives using autopilot, but also from all other Tesla Model S owners using the autopilot function. By compiling and sharing all the data, the cars become smarter, more efficient and safer.
The introduction of this feature is not without controversy. Over the last few years there have been a number of attempts at creating the first fully automated car. Many of the attempts have flopped, but Tesla thinks they have finally got it right. Critics of automated cars fear that it will increase driver negligence and put more people in harm’s way. In some states the Department of Motor Vehicles has pushed for legislation that prohibits the use of automated cars in certain areas, and even in the state as a whole. Opponents like this are what stand in the way and hold Tesla and other car companies back.
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