Tesla says that it has updated its Autopilot software to slow down when it detects the lights of emergency vehicles at night.
In an update to its Model 3 and Model Y owners manual coming with the 2021.24.12 software update, Tesla added new language about the capability (first spotted by @Analytic_ETH on Twitter):
“If Model3/ModelY detects lights from an emergency vehicle when using Autosteer at night on a high speed road, the driving speed is automatically reduced and the touchscreen displays a message informing you of the slowdown. You will also hear a chime and see a reminder to keep your hands on the steering wheel. When the light detections pass by or cease to appear, Autopilot resumes your cruising speed. Alternatively, you may tap the accelerator to resume your cruising speed.”
Interestingly, Tesla specifies that this new capacity works specifically “at night.”
The automaker also adds this important warning:
“Never depend on Autopilot features to determine the presence of emergency vehicles. Model3/ModelY may not detect lights from emergency vehicles in all situations. Keep your eyes on your driving path and always be prepared to take immediate action.”
The new language about Tesla Autopilot’s new capability was added after the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced last month that it’s opening an investigation into Tesla Autopilot over its possible involvement in 11 crashes with emergency and first responder vehicles.
I don’t think the two are necessarily related as I’ve discussed my suspicion that NHTSA’s investigation is misguided.
They focus on crashes with emergency vehicles on the side of the road, but Tesla Autopilot has had issues with stopping for a nonmoving object on the highway regardless of whether or not it’s an emergency vehicle.
It just so happens that vehicles stopped on the highway are often emergency vehicles.
I think this update is more about Tesla trying to introduce some automated driving behavior around emergency vehicles with their lights on, which is something they are going to need to do if they want to achieve “Full Self-Driving” capabilities.
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