Big changes are coming to Tesla’s Autopilot system, and it’s all going down tonight. Elon Musk confirmed Wednesday morning that Autopilot V8.0, which he says is “a major overhaul on almost every level compared to V7,” will roll out on schedule. A lucky few will receive the over-the-air software update starting tonight, and the rest should get it over the next couple days.
Tesla technicians are telling customers who call dealerships much the same: The update will be rolled out semi-randomly. They’re able to look up where you are in the queue if you provide the last name associated with the car, as the rollout is based on production dates, vehicle identification numbers, and the like. Despite the update being software-only, Musk says that Autopilot itself will be vastly improved: Cars with Autopilot 8.0 will be “three times safer” than cars without Autopilot software. Version 9.0, which we can probably expect next year, could bring the next generation of Autopilot — full autonomy — but this update should do well to temporarily pacify those yearning to kick their feet up and nap on their way to work.
This improvement is due, in large part, to Tesla’s prioritization of radar. Tesla’s departing from its Mobileye, computer-vision roots — which rift has led to some unfavorable press — and placing its chips on radar. The new software makes Teslas far better at interpreting radar signals, such that the cars can see beyond human eyes.
A few new safety measures, like preventing drivers from ignoring warnings, should make it harder for over-trusting drivers to put themselves in unsafe situations.
Reports also suggest that 8.0 will give the Tesla infotainment user interface a facelift, much like iOS updates. A Tesla technician who has seen one car with the update told a customer that the UI “looked streamlined,” and that those who wish to get the update as soon as possible can bring their Model S or X to a service center for proactive staging.
Musk, who has been working on electric cars for 25 years, is arguably more excited about 8.0 than most of his customers. He tweeted that his “favorite new feature is the always-on temperature control for keeping kids and pets safe from overheating.”
Tesla preempted the V8.0 update with a minor update, one that solved security issues brought to light on Tuesday. Chinese hackers were able to remotely gain access and then control Teslas. Kudos to Tesla for the quick fix. However, if vehicular cybersecurity continues to plague smart cars, then no amount of radar processing will render Teslas three times safer than unconnected, unintelligent cars.