Tesla Motors' most recent Autopilot upgrade does a better job of reminding drivers that it doesn't put the car in self-driving mode and that it's actually more of a next-level cruise-control setting.
The upgrade, released Sept. 21, also will rely on radar sensors more than camera or laser sensors, also known as lidar, which provide more accuracy. And it occasionally chimes to remind drivers to put their hands on the wheel, with the timing of the reminders dependent on road conditions and speed.
CEO Elon Musk said this month that the upgrade, called Tesla 8.0, may have been able to save the life of Joshua Brown, who died when his Tesla Model S crashed into a truck while Autopilot was engaged. The upgrade was installed over the air to Tesla models purchased in 2012 and later.
The upgrade also includes a feature that could help prevent heatstroke in pets or children left in cars. The update includes always-on temperature control that maintains a maximum temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit inside the car. Musk said the car batteries have enough power to keep the system running for a year if fully charged and that it will operate with a minimum battery charge of 20 percent.
But the overall 105-degree maximum temperature may not be enough to save children from heatstroke because internal body temperatures that high can cause heatstroke.
As of Sept. 22, 32 children have died this year in the U.S. as a result of heatstroke from being left in a vehicle, according to San Jose State University. This month a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would mandate automakers to find a technological solution that would alert parents to a forgotten child. Only one other automaker besides Tesla has a feature that could help: GMC has a backseat passenger reminder that it aims to make a standard feature on vehicles. It currently comes on the 2017 Acadia.