Why Tesla’s new Autopilot update poses SERIOUS questions for driverless car tech

Tesla has just announced a brand-new update for selected model owners, and it highlights one of the biggest problems car companies will have with self-driving tech. Announced just a few days ago by CEO Elon Musk, the software update brings features such as autonomous emergency braking and active cruise control to cars fitted with new Hardware 2.0 (HW2) self-driving hardware.

Why Tesla’s new Autopilot update poses SERIOUS questions for driverless car tech

Cars with the new HW2 hardware include sensors to make the cars even better at full autonomous driving – but for the past few months Tesla has had problems implementing some of the more basic features on them. And although Tesla thinks the new update is fine, as a precaution it’s been introduced to only 1,000 cars so far.


The problem of fragmentation

While the news will be welcomed by owner of cars equipped with the new hardware, it also shows how fragmentation might affect driverless cars. As hardware development picks up, it’s possible that some cars will be left behind, and what carmakers do next will be critical.

Owners of older cars could pay to have their hardware retroactively upgraded, but if they don’t, there could be two versions of autonomous driving software on the road at the same time. And that could be very dangerous.

Cars with different versions of software would behave very differently in critical situations. For example, some cars would have more advanced features than others, and road users would be unable to predict their movements. Tesla should be commended for its aggressive approach to development, but its recent update also poses some worrying questions for the future of autonomous cars.

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