Tesla to stop killing drivers: Software update beamed to leccy cars

'Autopilot' adds radar and driver prods

Anti-accident safety features compiled in

There are a number of other changes to the Tesla's autopilot feature aimed at limiting future accidents.

For one, radar signals will start slowing a car down if they see something that they suspect may cause a collision – just as a real, cautious driver would do. The brakes will be increasingly applied, or relaxed, depending the likelihood of an impact.

As road safety experts have said for decades, the slower you have a crash, the better. Tesla's smart decision is to recognize that it is not able to avoid all crashes, but the best thing to do is get the speed down as far as possible. The alternative would be to subject drivers to constant heavy braking.

The company has also implemented a new approach to drivers who get lazy and rely on the autopilot too much. Warning alerts will be more prominent. And if a driver does not respond to such alerts, the car will not only slow down but will prevent the driver from re-engaging Autopilot until they have come to a full stop.

The update is a typically smart and technologically advanced solution from the electric car company that continues to put much larger car companies to shame.

However, many are still unhappy about Tesla improving its systems using real-world customers – and their occasional deaths – as guinea pigs.

Consumer Reports said in July that Tesla was putting lives at risk and was not being fully honest about how effective its autopilot system really was.

"By marketing their feature as 'Autopilot,' Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security," said its VP of consumer policy and mobilization Laura MacCleery. She said that Tesla needs to make people fully aware that Autopilot can't actually drive the vehicle.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, of course, harbors no such concerns, at least not publicly. "This will probably be a threefold improvement in safety," he said about the software upgrade – now at version 8.0. "This is not going from bad to good. It's going from good to, I think, great." ®

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