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Transcript: Elon Musk’s press conference about Tesla Autopilot under v8.0 update [Part 2]


This is part 2 of our transcript of Elon Musk’s press conference about Tesla Autopilot under v8.0 update. You can read the part 1 here: Transcript: Elon Musk’s press conference about Tesla Autopilot under v8.0 update [Part 1]

Elon Musk – Tesla CEO:

Radar sees through rain, fog, snow, dust, and essentially quite easily. So even if you are driving down the road and the visibility was very low and there was a big multi-car pileup or something like that and you cant’ see it, the radar would and it would initiate braking in time to avoid your car being added to the multi-car pileup.

In fact, an additional level of sophistication – we are confident that we can use the radar to look beyond the car in front of you by bouncing the radar signal off the road and around the car. We are able to process that echo by using the unique signature of each radar pulse as well as the time of flight of the photon to determine  that what we are seeing is in fact an echo in front of the car that’s in front of you. So even if there’s something that was obscured directly both in vision and radar, we can use the bounce effect of the radar to look in front of that car and still brake.

It takes things to another level of safety.

I do want to emphasize: this does not mean perfect safety. Perfect safety is really an impossible goal. It’s really about improving the probability of safety – that’s the only thing that really ever possible. As you approach the law of large numbers, it becomes more and more applicable. I think we have 160,000 cars or something like that, soon 200,000 cars, and eventually, we will have million of cars traveling billion of miles per year.

Even if something is only for one in billion chance, there will never be zero fatalities, there will never be zero injuries. The world is a very big place and there’s a huge number of people and a huge number of circumstances. It’s really just about minimizing the probability of death not the illusion of perfect safety.

I am highly confident that this will be quite a substantial improvement by radar only braking with fleet learning. I think this is quite a massive enhancement, I wish we could have done it earlier, but the perfect is the enemy of the good. You just can’t come fully formed into some ideal solution. It’s impossible to do that for anything. It is important to note that some number of people die every year by getting twist up by their bed sheet literally, some number of people die every year by vending machines falling on them. There are those unusual situations that people die, but I don’t think anyone is saying that there should be no bed sheet or not vending machines. It’s just that you have these rare events occasionally – tragic – but if we were to eliminate all of them, we would be essentially limited to sitting at home on a pillow as the only thing you are allowed to do.

So yeah I’m very excited about this and there’s also a number of other improvements to Autopilot that I think will enhance safety. We increased the automatic braking ramp rate and reduce latency by a factor of 5.It was already better than a human, but now it’s 5 times better. We are tracking now for 2 cars ahead using radar echo and improving the cut in and cut out response. This is very helpful where if there’s a car in front of you suddenly swerve out-of-the-way of an obstacle, but if we are only tracking the car in front you, we don’t see the obstacle and now we do.

There are also a lot of little things like the car in your lane that  you are overtaking is still partially in you lane – just a slight amount – the current version of the Autopilot could scrape that car, but with 8.0 it should not. The interface loads are now more prominent. We’ve got better lane detection by downloading the geo-coded expected lane widths.

There also a large number of important improvements. Something I think will be quite significant is that if the user ignores repeated warning to keep their hands on the wheel, if it ignores the audible alarm more than 3 times in an hour then the driver will have to park and restart in order to enable Autosteer.

One of the ironies that we’ve seen is counter intuitive and a lot of people on the consumer watchdog sites and in some cases on regulatory sites have assumed that Autopilot accidents are more likely for new users. In fact, it is the opposite. Autopilot accidents are far more likely for expert users. It is not the neophytes. It’s the experts.

They get very comfortable with it and repeatedly ignore the car’s warnings. It’s like a reflex. The car will beep at them, they tug the wheel, the car will beep at them, they tug the wheel, and it becomes an unconscious reflex action. So we will see half a dozen or more, sometimes as many as 10 warning in one hour continuously ignored by the driver. We really want to avoid that situation.

There are many other improvements that improve not just the safety but the comfort and feel of Autopilot. We wanted to get measured and concerted in the changes that we make and not just have a knee-jerk reaction. We want to make sure that the data support the change. It is the right thing or does it really maximize the safety and it’s not just a red herring, but something that matters – not just something that people think matter. It really needs to be something that is driven by real world data and that’s what I think we achieved here in 8.0.

We are also going through a very extensive testing process. We are always doing extensive testing processes. I should point that the reason why we are using the word “beta” on Autopilot to reduce people’s comfort level with turning it on. It’s not really beta. It’s just that if something is described very clearly as beta you are less likely to be complacent if you turn it on than if it’s not described as “beta”.

It is really with the intent in diminishing people’s complacency that we call it “beta’ and not because it is. Nonetheless, for 8.0 we ramped it up to an even greater level of testing and we are gradually expanding customers early access program, which is sort of roughly 1,000 around the world that work with us personally and provide feedback on the nuances of the systems. It feels right and what doesn’t feels right. We actually did 3 early access releases and we actually might do a fourth before rolling out to all customers.

It feels like it’s almost there. We are maybe one of two weeks away from rolling out to all our customers. With that, let’s jump into questions.

You can read part 3 here: Transcript: Elon Musk’s press conference about Tesla Autopilot under v8.0 update [Part 3]

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