Even though the digital security of cars has often been called into question, especially when it comes to the idea of remote updates, Elon Musk has said that Tesla vehicles will gradually be made safer over time, as his company regularly improves the back-end software of the vehicles. The first upgrades are expected to go out in the next few days for the Model S electric car, with other upgrades and updates set to do the same over the next few months.
Somewhat optimisticly, Musk also said that these updates would eventually allow the Model S to drive autonomously, though it’s not clear whether existing sensor equipment is up to the task of high-speed driverless locomotion and whether hardware upgrades might also be required to give the car such a function.
“We really designed the Model S to be a very sophisticated computer on wheels,” Musk said during a conference call last week (via NASDAQ). “Tesla is very much a software company as much as a hardware company.”
“We view it in the same way as updating your phone or your laptop,” he said or the projected update plan. “Just as people assume your phone will update frequently. It is a fundamental paradigm shift from the way that cars have been done in the past.”
The first update to be rolled out will be one that gives the cars an improved ability to analyse the route being taken by the driver, potentially allowing the car to automatically suggest a faster or shorter one. On top of that though, it will take into consideration the mileage expected to be covered throughout the route and therefore how much charge the driver is likely to have at any one point. The idea with that, is to let the driver know if they will potentially be travelling too far from a charge point in order to make it back.
Other more safety focused updates will include blind spot detection, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and a “valet mode,” which means that whoever you hand your keys too won’t be able to drive around in your car at high speeds when you aren’t there. Future updates will add the ability to drive on the motorway without touching the steering wheel or pedals and will even have the ability to go and pick someone up remotely, though due to current US legislature that function will only be legally usable on private property.
The real question about this update system however, is whether it will cause any issues. As we’ve seen from big software releases including game developers, bugs can cause real headaches. On the road, that could lead to life threatening situations. Here’s hoping Tesla has very thoroughly tested its software before sending it out to anyone.