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Tesla’s reported Autopilot 2.0 will face new goalposts for ‘smart’

TechCrunch TechCrunch 6/07/2016 Darrell Etherington

Two separate reports claim Autopilot 2.0, an enhanced version of Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous driving tech, is coming to vehicles soon, potentially as part of the upcoming 8.0 update of Tesla’s software. TechnoBuffalo reported that Autopilot 2.0 is confirmed as “coming soon,” while Electrek’s Fred Lambert discussed the feature in an earlier piece focused on the overall 8.0 version update for Tesla vehicles.

What would Autopilot 2.0 bring to the table? According to the TechnoBuffalo report, it would use the new dual-camera hardware that has been spotted in some prototype Model S and Model X units roving the streets. Thanks to those cameras, the Autopilot 2.0 system has a couple of new abilities, according to the site’s anonymous source, including a way to automatically detect and stop in response to stop signs and red traffic lights.

Electrek says that the new Autopilot 2.0 features, which include more than just the ones reported by TechnoBuffalo, will rely heavily on the new sensor suite, so it’s unlikely that a lot of the advances will be backwards compatible.

Any forthcoming Autopilot updates released by Tesla will be met with new levels of scrutiny, both in terms of public perception and likely regulatory attention, too. These new features definitely sound like net wins in terms of advancing progress towards a safer autonomous vehicle, but everything has changed now that we’ve seen two recent accidents involving Autopilot, one of which resulted in a fatality and one reported just today involving a Model X.

In many ways, we’ve been warned: Players like Google and Ford have made no secret about preferring so-called L4 tech (full autonomy) vs. a more graduated approach like the one Tesla has implemented with Autopilot.

At the very least, it seems likely that Tesla will rethink how it presents driver-assist technologies like Autopilot, and it could also make some technical tweaks along the lines of what Tesla owner and industry observer Marco Arment suggests in his recent blog post on the subject. As for Autopilot 2.0, it’s hard to imagine the company proceeding with a rollout of any successor to its autonomous tech in the midst of everything else that’s happening, even if on paper the benefits of the new features would improve safety overall.

We reached out to Tesla for comment on any forthcoming updates to Autopilot but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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