While Tesla autopilot has had plenty of updates over the past few years, the current version is not ready for full self-driving.
However, Tesla plans for a massive software update coming in the next two to four months, which Elon Musk believes will be the key to full self-driving in 2020.
In this article, I’m going to unveil the evidence pointing towards the new features in Tesla’s upcoming autopilot update. Explain why all these features make Elon Musk confident in full self-driving by the end of 2020.
With the current version of the Tesla autopilot, Tesla won’t be able to achieve fully self-drive in a short period. There are significant foundational issues that make it challenging to improve the safety of the autopilot.
Andrej Karpathy, the senior director of artificial intelligence at Tesla, explained how Tesla’s new update would focus more on the artificial intelligence aspect rather than the explicit decision making.
Typically when the Tesla autopilot sees a stop sign, it stops at the sign. However, this isn’t going to work out because there are always individual outliers that make it impossible to achieve level 5 autonomy.
Instead of this simplistic approach, Tesla utilizes its data set to monitor actual human reactions and copy those reactions for each scenario. This change in Tesla’s approach is called software 2.0, which is slowly taking over software 1.0.
In Tesla’s upcoming software update, the company will be done or almost done with software 2.0, completely getting rid of the previous foundation of autopilot.
Andres Karpathy explains this rewrite using a term called a neuro network. Neuro networks refer to the ability to understand what an object or sign is, despite the different angles, lighting, and degradations.
In our brains, we can all spot what a number is, despite the differences in handwriting or pixel locations. This is what the neural network is trained to do.
Because Tesla has a lot of data with people driving cars, it can replicate a user’s wheel movements when on autopilot.
For example, if there’s a worn-out stop sign that Tesla’s cameras don’t seem to be catching onto, the autopilot will be able to use the facts that humans have stopped at that area in the past and replicate it in real life.
According to Elon Musk, this is the kind of revolutionary update coming in two to four months.
With the expansion of software 2.0 in Tesla’s autopilot, Teslas are becoming better at spotting 3d objects. These improvements will allow Tesla to understand the environment better and react to it correctly.
For example, the Tesla autopilot is now able to drive through green lights knowingly. Previously Teslas wouldn’t react to green lights, and when it did, the autopilot was following the lead of a car in front of it or staying in its lane.
If a Tesla on autopilot was the first car in its lane and the light turned green, the driver would have to hit the accelerator.
However, with the improvement of Tesla’s neural networks, the autopilot will now be able to drive through green lights while knowing it is going through a green light.
As Andrej Karpathy explained in his presentation, software 2.0 is beginning to eat up software 1.0. He means that he and his team are beginning to solve each small issue using software 2.0.
In a presentation in China, Elon Musk explained how these relatively rare situations collectively become a more significant problem.
We will see in the upcoming autopilot update that a foundational rewrite more reliance on neural networks, and human reactions, and a lot of small issues are being fixed.
This upcoming update makes Elon Musk confident that Tesla will have level 5 autonomy, at least in California.
Most people are skeptical of achieving level 5 autonomy by the end of 2020, myself included. But we do have to realize that we don’t know how the developments are going for Tesla’s upcoming autopilot update.
According to Elon Musk, a lot of functionality will happen when we transition to the new software stack.
It will most likely be releasable in two to four months, and then it’s a question of what functionality is proven safe enough to enable owners.
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