Over the past few months, Tesla’s Autopilot feature has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism. And with good reason, the company’s futuristic self-driving car technology has been involved in a number of accidents over the past year. While many of these incidents were the result of Tesla drivers over relying on the software and, in turn, engaging the feature in less than ideal driving situations, the perception that the software isn’t yet ready for widespread use persists.
The reality, though, is that Tesla’s constantly-improving Autopilot software, when used responsibly and in appropriate road conditions, is an incredible piece of technology that can prevent accidents and save lives.
To this point, a Tesla owner recently posted dashcam footage which shows how his Model X managed to anticipate an impending collision and warn the driver to apply the brakes immediately. For those curious, the driver has since confirmed that the SUV’s Autopilot software signaled the alert well before he himself realized trouble was brewing ahead.
everbody turned out to be ok as I read in the Whatsapp message that brought me the video.
— Hans Noordsij (@HansNoordsij) December 27, 2016
Indeed, what’s particularly fascinating about the video is that the Model X’s software senses trouble ahead before anything of note becomes visible from the driver’s perspective. This is likely due to Autopilot’s increased reliance on radar technology which allows the software to more ably detect upcoming obstacles on the road and even ‘see through’ the car traveling directly ahead.
Speaking to this point, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the following during an earnings conference call this past September:
As an additional level of sophistication, we can even use the radar to look beyond the car in front of you by bouncing the radar off the road and around the car. By analyzing the echo and unique signature of each radar pulse… we can even see an echo from what’s in front of the car that’s in front of you. Even if there’s something that was obscured both in vision and radar, we can use the bounce effect of the radar to look in front of that car and still break.
Incidentally, we’ve seen quite a few examples of Tesla’s Autopilot software preventing accidents over the past few months, including this video from July.
For anyone curious, you can see a video depiction of what a Tesla’s most recent Autopilot software ‘sees’ in real time via the video below.