Tesla CEO Elon Musk says the electric car company is making major improvements to the Autopilot system used by its vehicles, which will dramatically reduce the number and severity of crashes in which they are involved.
Sunday’s news comes in the wake of a May crash involving a Tesla Model S that was using the semi-autonomous mode at the time. The driver died after crashing into a tractor-trailer.
On a conference call with reporters, Musk said he thinks that the improvements, which will roll out globally in the next week or two in the form of a software update, probably would have prevented that crash.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is investigating the crash, said Sunday that Tesla has provided it with information about the changes to Autopilot, which it will review. It declined to provide an update on its Tesla investigation.
Musk called the upgrades a “massive enhancement,” but he said that Tesla cars are already the safest on the road.
“It’s not about going from bad to good,” Musk said on the call. “Things are already good. I think it’s about going from good to great.”
While he acknowledged that there’s no such thing as perfect security, he predicted that the improvements will cut the accident rate for Tesla vehicles by more than half.
Tesla’s Autopilot system can maintain a set speed, keep the car within its lane and brake automatically. Radar, which was added to all Tesla vehicles starting in October 2014, currently helps the car see things that may be blocked to cameras in bright sunlight or bad weather.
The improvements announced Sunday call for Autopilot to rely more on radar and less on vehicle cameras. As part of that shift, the radar will use more advanced signal processing to create a better picture of the surrounding world.
Musk said that he has…