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Tesla Autopilot upgrade is imminent, Elon Musk says

Tesla Autopilot upgrade is imminent, Elon Musk says
Elon Musk speaks at Tesla Motors' giant battery factory outside Reno in July. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Tesla Motors Inc. will announce "major improvements" for its Autopilot semi-autonomous driving system Wednesday, according to Chief Executive Elon Musk.

The improvements will come "primarily through advanced processing of radar signals," Musk said in a series of tweets. He promised more details later in the day.

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The Autopilot feature includes machine steering, collision avoidance, assisted lane changing and adaptive cruise control. On a well-marked highway, the car can nearly drive itself, although the human driver is expected to remain alert and take over the controls when necessary. The system periodically warns drivers to put their hands on the steering wheel, and the car will slow down and eventually stop if they don't.

The system drew controversy after several Autopilot-related crashes, including a fatal collision in Florida in May when a Tesla Model S sedan hit a big-rig truck, killing the car's driver.

In the Florida crash, Musk has said, the system might not have distinguished between the image of the truck and the image of the sky behind it. He said the system's radar "tunes out what looks like an overhead road sign to avoid false braking events."

Also on Wednesday, Tesla said in a filing with the Securities Exchange Commission that it will seek to raise more investor funds this year and will pay off some convertible debt.

The Palo Alto company plans to start shipping its Model 3 line of electric cars by the end of 2017, priced at about $35,000. It's also building a $5-billion battery factory in Nevada. Many analysts are wondering whether it can maintain enough cash flow to see those projects to completion.

Twitter: @russ1mitchell

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