September 22, 2016

Tesla has unveiled the full details of the v8.0 software update, which the Palo Alto company claims is the biggest update since the launch of the Model S.

Elon Musk promised that the latest update would give owners a noticeable improvement in the Autopilot system. Some of the main features that include serious revisions to the driver monitoring aspects have already been revealed, but now we’ve got the full story.

Smartphone-style software updates

Tesla has taken the opportunity to highlight the way that its cars can be updated with free, over-the-air software updates like a smartphone. This means it’s one of the few companies that can update its software and add new functions to the machine throughout its lifespan.

So now the Model S US has effectively received a mid-life facelift without any hardware upgrades and the 2012 cars will get the same functionality and improvement as customers who took delivery of their car today.

That means serious upgrades to Autopilot, Maps, Navigation with Trip Planner and the Media Player. Cabin Overheat Protection joins the set-up for the first time and that ensures the car stays at the same temperature even when the car is stationary and off.

Autopilot is the big one, of course, and Tesla has gone to town with the processing systems for the onboard radar to capture consistent snapshots of its surroundings. That gives the car a clearer view of the world and helps the systems work together.

How many separate improvements to Autopilot?

There are more than 200 improvements to the Autopilot system and they include an improved response in stop-start traffic and a highway interchange capability. That’s a big deal as we’re slowly edging towards the car taking over the majority of the driving, but Tesla has learned from its recent issues and will monitor you to make sure you’re paying attention.

Autosteer will actually switch off if you ignore the warnings, which is something we’re still struggling with and we suspect it will evolve into a much more competent system that brings the car to a safe halt immediately if the car decides you’re not in control. Autopilot also looks two cars ahead to help avoid consistent heavy braking and can now move over within its lane to compensate for a car running close to the white line.

The media player has been revitalized and now the search should be much simpler to help you scroll through the streaming radio options, including live stations, podcasts and connected devices.

Voice commands are getting better

With the new UI voice controls are simpler, easier and clearer with solid visual feedback to help you focus entirely on the road. The car even provides a full transcript of your voice commands so you can verify them and confirm. That means you should be able to handle the vast majority of the car’s operations without taking your eyes off the action up ahead for more than a fraction of a second, if at all.

The maps are now substantially bigger, too, as they now stretch the whole way across the touchscreen. The maps now work more effectively with the touchscreen and voice controls and you can go straight to your home destinations or a set destination like your work or a relative’s house with a single swipe.

There’s much more to Autopilot v8.0 than we could hope to get into here and we’re sure that it’s going to offer a marked improvement. We’ll wait and see what the owners have to say in the coming weeks before we break out the Champagne, but it looks like Autopilot has taken a big step forward after all. At least one independent tester claims it’s a lot smoother, but it might not be the revelation we were waiting for.

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