Tesla [NSDQ:TSLA] on Wednesday started beaming out its version 8.0 over-the-air software update to its customers’ Model S and Model X vehicles.
As the company outlined in a September 11 blog post, the update changes hundreds of functions in the vehicles, the most important of which have to do with the semi-autonomous Autopilot system.
Autopilot made safer
We’ve already outlined some of the changes made to Autopilot. The most significant is a switch to prioritizing data from onboard radar instead of cameras to help the system sense the surrounding environment. Autopilot previously prioritized camera data, with the radar serving as a supplementary sensor only, though this was insufficient in the case of a May 7 fatal crash in Florida that involved a Model S being controlled by Autopilot.
Another important change is a new safety requirement which disables Autopilot when safety warnings are ignored. This is to prevent idiots from not paying attention when Autopilot is switched on. Tesla has consistently stated that Autopilot is only an assist feature and requires full attention from the driver.
There have been a few driving changes as well, with Autopilot now better suited to adapting its speed through curves and knowing when to stay centered in its lane when a car in front may be close to the edge. The radar sensor can also now monitor two cars ahead by bouncing a radar signal beneath the immediate car in front.
Another safety feature Tesla has introduced is called Cabin Overheat Protection. This feature keeps the car’s interior cool, even when it is switched off, to prevent a child or pet suffering from overheating. Whenever the interior reaches 105 degrees F (40 degrees C), the air conditioning automatically turns on to cool things down. We should stress that this isn't a free pass to start leaving a loved one locked in the car.
Biggest infotainment update since Model S launch
The other major changes made in the 8.0 software update deal mostly with the infotainment system and affect popular functions such as the navigation, media player and trip planner. Tesla says the update represents the biggest infotainment update since the launch of the Model S in 2012.
For the navigation, the maps have been updated to span the entire touchscreen. You can also now search for destinations with a single touch or voice command as well as select stored locations with a single swipe. There’s also a trip planner that provides a clear overview of your journey before you leave, with maps that zoom out to show the full route.
The media player has been redesigned and personalized to put your favorite content front and center. And search is now simpler and provides fast access to streaming radio, live stations, podcasts, and any connected USB device.
Controlling much of the infotainment system can be done by voice, which is now easier and clearer to use. For example, voice commands initiate with a single tap and feedback in the form of text now appears in the main instrument cluster to confirm your command. New visual tips also remind you what commands are available.