Thanks to over-the-air updates, Tesla's Autopilot assist has become increasingly more advanced over the years. Last year, an update enabled Tesla cars to navigate parking lots without needing a driver behind the wheel. This latest update, however, adds a new Autopilot feature Elon Musk teased last year that brings the Autopilot system closer to full autonomy.
After testing on public roads, a new software update has been deployed for Model 3 and Model Y owners with the "Hardware 3" system that adds a new 'Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control' feature. As the name implies, this enables the car to automatically recognize and stop at traffic lights and stop signs detected by forward-facing cameras and GPS data.
Once activated with Tesla's Autosteer or Traffic-Aware Cruise Control assists, the system will slow the car down to stop for traffic lights and stop signs. The driver will then need to pull Autopilot stalk or press the accelerator pedal to continue driving through the intersection when it's safe.
There are limitations, however, as the system still automatically slows the car down even if the traffic light is green. It also won't work with all types of intersections including railroad crossings, keep-out zones, toll booths, and crosswalk systems.
Tesla's new traffic light-sensing tech is still in beta, so it goes without saying that you should use it at your own risk. As a precaution, Tesla notes that the system "may be conservative and slowdown often at first" but that users "must pay attention and be ready to take immediate action at all times, including braking." We're not surprised that Tesla is being cautious after a driver was killed last year when the Model S being driven by the Autopilot system ran through a red light.
"Over time, as we learn from the fleet, the feature will control more naturally," Tesla added. "Performance may be degraded in difficult environments with pedestrians, rain, direct sunlight or when approaching traffic controls that are obstructed."