Tesla Finds Way To Stop Autopilot Crashing Into Emergency Vehicles

Technology / Comments

This follows several incidents where Teslas crashed into parked emergency vehicles.

If Tesla's Autopilot were a person, its ego would be pretty bruised based on the events of the last few months. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officially began investigating Autopilot following a number of Tesla crashes since 2018, and that was followed by a new study proving that drivers become increasingly distracted when Autopilot is active. Now, Tesla has made updates to the latest version of Autopilot for the Model 3 and Model Y. The changes were found in an owner's manual by @Analytic_ETH on Twitter and may or may not be a direct response to the NHTSA's investigations.

https://twitter.com/Analytic_ETH/status/1440537502272536581
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The updates relate specifically to the detection of emergency lights from an emergency vehicle when using Autosteer in your Tesla. When the car detects these lights, the speed will automatically be lowered and Autopilot will only resume the previously set speed when the emergency lights have disappeared.

An excerpt from the owner's manual declared the following: "If Model 3/Model Y detects lights from an emergency vehicle when using Autosteer at night on a high-speed road, the driving speed is automatically reduced and the touchscreen displays a message informing you of the slowdown."

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The NHTSA's investigation relates specifically to 11 crashes whereby a Tesla vehicle crashed into another car at a scene where emergency responders were working. Of course, emergency personnel use flashing lights, hazard cones, and the like, so Tesla's latest Autopilot update does seem to account for this to some extent. The update interestingly mentions the use of Autosteer at night, so it's unclear if emergency lights will still be picked up by the system in daylight.

The owner's manual includes a warning to drivers to "never depend on Autopilot features to determine the presence of emergency vehicles," reiterating the message that an attentive driver is essential to safe commuting.

Any update that improves the safety standards of Autopilot is a welcome one, although the jury is still out on whether Tesla is doing enough to circumvent Autopilot's limitations.

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