As Elon Musk promised in his New Year’s Eve tweet and exactly two weeks and 649 miles after taking delivery of my Tesla Model S, on New Year’s day I received my HW2 Autopilot software upgrade. The only nicer surprise was that the state of California managed to deliver my new license plates in even less time.
Tesla’s HW2 autopilot hardware has been installed on all new Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles manufactured after about mid-October 2016 and is enabled if you purchased the Enhanced Autopilot option. An accompanying Full Self-Driving Capability option should also be purchased if you want to take full advantage of the NVIDIA powered HW2 platform. Both options can be purchased at any time on vehicles manufactured after the mid-October cutover date if you did not configure at time of original purchase or lease. One warning, if you lease your vehicle and didn’t select the option, you will need to pay the full cash price of the option[s] to upgrade. You can’t just add the option onto the lease payment later.
The CES show this year promises to be full of companies demonstrating self-driving capabilities, many of them powered by NVIDIA. You can preview NVIDIA happenings at the CES show highlighted in the teaser video below.
But back to the HW2 autopilot upgrade. If you want self-driving capabilities in a production vehicle you can actually purchase today, Tesla is your only option. First of all, while the press have rumored this upgrade to be called 8.1, Tesla still is calling it 8.0 with the accompanying firmware version of 2.50.185. I also expect the install warning of “will take 1 hour 40 minutes to install” is a carry-over from the original 8.0 upgrade as this install took only about 20 minutes to complete. It is important to note that unlike traditional vehicles which remain the same as the day you drove off the lot, Tesla is able to continuously upgrade their vehicles through software upgrades delivered wirelessly to your car. This allows for incremental updates so you can expect more and smarter features to be added over time. So what’s in this first HW2 upgrade?
Forward Collison Warning
The first new feature to be enabled is forward collision warning. While collision warning systems are available in quite a few new vehicles today, the HW2 powered system promises to be more accurate, with fewer false alarms, than traditional systems. And unlike the system that may be hardwired into your car today, the Tesla system can be upgraded over time.
Traffic-Aware Cruise Control (Beta)
Tesla chose to add the “Beta” label to this feature, indicating it isn’t fully complete. Again, conceptually this feature is similar to existing radar-based adaptive cruise control systems but promises additional capabilities based on the ability of the HW2 software to understand more about the complete environment on the road around you.
Low-Speed Autosteer (Beta)
The third major feature enabled by the upgrade also gets the Beta label. Working in conjunction with traffic-aware cruise control, this software helps you maintain your position in lane. Here is where the power of the Tesla HW2 approach really starts to become apparent. Each feature is simply a software application running on the NVIDIA HW2 self-driving car supercomputer buried deep inside the car. So having one feature or program communicate with another is as simple as sharing information between two applications on your laptop or smart phone
Unfortunately, you will have to wait until my next blog update to hear my driving impressions of these new autopilot features. I only drove a few miles yesterday after completing the install, and as I pulled into the driveware the system was still reporting “calibrating cameras – autopilot not yet available for use”. Meanwhile, here are a few other articles on the upgrade.
Complete Release Notes (courtesy Electrek)
Teslarati article with more screen shots
Tesla Motors Club article – cameras calibrated after about 100 miles
Drove about 90 minutes/100 miles today, amazing how good the LA freeways are on holidays. Cameras still calibrating. I sent email to Tesla’s autopilot feedback asking how long the camera calibration takes and received a prompt and helpful reply.
“The process for the calibration takes about one to five hours of driving. Calibration is quicker on well-marked roads, but road conditions (not marked, poor visibility, etc.) may significantly increase the time required. The features will not be enabled until the next drive cycle on the vehicle once calibration is complete.”