Tesla Autopilot detects and helps avoid car in snowstorm before driver sees it

A Tesla Model 3 owner says that his car’s emergency braking feature powered by Autopilot saw a stopped vehicle in the middle of the road during a snowstorm before he could himself see it and helped avoid an accident. The whole incident was caught on dashcam.

As we recently reported when sharing a test of Autopilot in a snowstorm, even though Tesla Autopilot is quite an impressive application of autonomous driving features, it is still only in “beta” and it is meant to be used with the driver always ready to take control and it is better to use the system on the highway and in clear conditions.

That said, even if you don’t activate the system, it still powers some active safety features at all time, like emergency braking.

A Tesla Model 3 owner shared on Reddit his experience in a snowstorm last week when a vehicle stopped in the middle of the road and the emergency braking system kicked in before he could see the stranded vehicle himself:

“I don’t think I was using EAP [Autopilot], but I may have been, it started to brake before the stopped car came into view. When I swerved to right I could feel the Tesla keeping us straight avoiding a spin out like the car in front of us. I felt like I was the best driver in the world threading the needle.”

The incident was caught by the Model 3’s dashcam where you can see the vehicle becoming visible at the last second:

Threading the needle. Model 3 auto braked and kept from sliding out, avoiding a crash while driving too fast for conditions. from TeslaModel3

While it’s hard to tell from the video, it does appear that the Model 3 is slowing down before the vehicle is visible to the human eye.

Tesla’s front-facing sensors have proven to be quite efficient at detecting potential accidents before the driver.

With the release of Tesla’s version 8.0 software update back in September 2016, the automaker announced a new radar processing technology that was directly pushed over-the-air to all its vehicles equipped with the first generation Autopilot hardware.

One of the main features enabled by the new radar processing capacity is the ability for the system to see ahead of the car in front of you and basically track two cars ahead on the road. The radar is able to bounce underneath or around the vehicle in front of a Tesla and see where the driver potentially can not because the leading vehicle is obstructing the view.

We have previously seen examples caught on camera of the system detecting accidents before they happened (here and here).

This new incident could be an example of the system also being able to identify an obstacle in bad visual conditions better than a driver.

Though some owners have reported issues with ice buildup on the front to the car messing with the Autopilot’s radar sensor.

Tesla recommends using a Rust-Oleum NeverWet spray coat on the front fascia to help prevent ice buildup. The company also asks owners to only using the top coat and not the base one.

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