Elon Musk wants older Teslas to detect unidentified flying objects, and he’s planning to demo the feature soon. The CEO revealed on Friday that cars equipped with the Hardware 1 platform, a feature that enables semi-autonomous driving, will soon be able to brake when they detect a UFO through fog. The software update will use radar technology to spot obstacles that cameras would otherwise miss.
The Hardware 1 platform, included in Model S and Model X vehicles until October of last year, was provided by Mobileye to power the Autopilot feature that enables a limited form of autonomous driving. The car can drive along highways and park, but unlike a fully autonomous vehicle, there’s no option to input an address and let the car drive you to your destination.
When Musk unveiled Hardware 2 last year, a platform developed in-house with the eventual goal of full autonomy, fans were worried that it could mean older vehicles were left behind. In December, though, Musk told a Twitter user that older vehicles would continue to receive updates.
Autopilot has come under scrutiny before, after an accident last year where a Model S collided with a tractor trailer. The trailer, which had a white side, was not detected by the Autopilot, and the driver died in the incident. In January, the NHTSA declared that Tesla was not at fault, and the crash rate for Tesla vehicles actually dropped by 40 percent after the introduction of Autopilot.
Nonetheless, Autopilot’s ability to detect unidentified objects will be useful in making the feature even safer than it is today. Tesla is turning its attention to Hardware 2 improvements, with plans to enable fully autonomous cross-country road trips by the end of the year, but Musk’s post shows the company is still dedicating resources to improving older models as well.
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