According to Elon Musk, Tesla Vision will soon be capable of recognizing hand signals, emergency vehicle lights, other vehicles’ turn signals, and other vehicles’ hazard light signals. This announcement comes after one Tesla owner says that his vehicle is now capable of recognizing that other vehicles are stopped with brake lights on.
Tesla recently eliminated radar in favor of a purely camera-based system for the Autopilot and Full Self-Driving software packages. This counterintuitive move came shortly after a Tesla-owned vehicle equipped with what looked like a lidar system was recently seen in Florida, although Tesla has not issued a statement about any possible tests involving lidar. (Lidar systems do look a lot like top-mounted vehicle racks capable of carrying a couple of bicycles or a kayak.) Tesla apparently believes that a vision-based system will be sufficient for its driver-assist programs.
The completely vision-based system did alarm some vehicle safety trackers. Organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reversed their high safety ratings shortly after Tesla’s decision, though the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has since restored the high rating after thorough testing. The IIHS says that Tesla vehicles do an excellent job of avoiding other vehicles and pedestrians even without radar, though of course the vehicles may not be able to respond quickly enough to unpredictable situations like a child suddenly running out right in front of a vehicle.
Tesla did recently release the Version 9 beta of Full Self-Driving, which included several important updates like new off-highway driving features and a recent update to the Autopilot that turned on a camera on the rearview mirror. Tesla has been increasingly concerned about safety following reports of crashes in which Autopilot was initially believed to be engaged (though Autopilot’s logs indicated that this was not always the case) and incidents involving owners being seen riding in the back seat of a driverless Tesla vehicle.
Although these incidents and recent recalls like a massive one in China to fix a problem with the Autopilot that was causing unexpected acceleration has been a cause of safety concerns, some vehicles like the Model 3 do get high marks for safety outside of concerns about the driver assist programs. The Model 3 was the only one to keep its high rating on Consumer Reports’ most recent Auto Reliability Report and was recently restored as Consumer Reports’ “Top Pick” after the results of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s tests came in.
Elon Musk has recently admitted that developing a fully autonomous vehicle was more challenging than it looked, though he seems to remain confident that Tesla will figure it out eventually. New features like the recognition of emergency vehicle lights and turn signals will be especially useful, though it will not be a surprise if someone leaves a comment below that it would be helpful if some people would actually USE their turn signals (lol).
That’s a fair point, considering that Full Self-Driving is not quite ready for prime time yet. Experts say that a truly autonomous vehicle will be capable of handling most driving conditions, with operator input only needed once for every million miles driven. Tesla still issues the disclaimer that drivers should stay alert while using its driver-assist programs and Elon Musk has said that drivers should still remain “paranoid” due to possible unknown bugs in its latest update.