UPDATE 1-Tesla curbs autopilot feature, but Musk says better than human driver
(Adds Tesla CEO comments)By Alexandria SageDETROIT Jan 10 Tesla Motors said on
Sunday it was updating the Autopilot driving systems in Model S
sedans to put new limits on its hands-free operation, which has
been both praised for its innovation while criticized for having
been launched too early.The function will now be restricted on residential roads or
roads without a center divider, meaning the car cannot drive
faster than the speed limit maximum plus five miles (8 km) per
hour.Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said the car will now reduce
its speed in anticipation of curves on the highway, but added he
was not aware of any accidents caused by the earlier version of
the software.Tesla announced the Autopilot upgrade the day before the
start of Detroit's North American International Auto Show, where
traditional carmakers - which in general have lagged Tesla in
unveiling semi-autonomous technology - launch new models.
When Autopilot launched in October, Musk cautioned the hotly
anticipated function was in beta mode, or a test phase of
development, with full 'hands-off' driving not recommended.Still, a host of subsequent videos posted by Tesla drivers
on YouTube showed near-misses on the road with Autopilot,
prompting Musk to say he might curb the function to minimize the
possibility of people doing "crazy things."
The U.S. pioneer in luxury electric cars charged by
batteries was one of the first companies to offer steering that
could be operated hands-free, one of the first steps to full
self-driving that industry experts say may be available by 2020.In an interview with reporters, Musk said Tesla's system was
"probably better than human at this point in highway driving,"
able to keep to its lane using cameras, radar and mapping.The company's expertise in software has allowed it to add
the hands-free functionality - and to correct any glitches -
through a software update, but critics have suggested the
company should have delayed Autopilot until it was perfect.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, the
head of GM's global product development, Mark Reuss, said
his company would "never" use over-the-air upgrades in
safety-critical systems like steering and braking.Tesla said improvements were made to help the car better
stay in lanes even with faded markings, and when passing highway
exits. In cruise control mode, the car will now anticipate exits
by slowing down if the turn signal is activated.Using a feature called "summon," Model S drivers can park
their cars from outside the vehicle in tight spots and the cars
can also park themselves in perpendicular spots to the curb.In a bold pronouncement characteristic of Musk, who also has
interests in space travel, he said advances in the "summon"
technology would allow Tesla owners to summon their cars from
New York to Los Angeles within two years.
(Reporting By Alexandria Sage; Editing by Keith Weir and Bill