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Tesla CEO Elon Musk says Autopilot update will roll out Wednesday

Tesla CEO Elon Musk says Autopilot update will roll out Wednesday
Tesla Motors Inc. CEO Elon Musk in July. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Tesla Motors Inc. plans to roll out an update to its Autopilot driver-assistance feature Wednesday, Chief Executive Elon Musk said Friday morning.

In a tweet, Musk said he was "hoping" to release the software update then "if no last minute issues discovered."

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Musk described the pending changes Sunday. The new Autopilot will rely primarily on radar, not just cameras, to help the car "see" what's going on around it and better avoid collisions.

The new software will get more data points from the radar to create a 3-D picture of the car's surroundings, Musk said Sunday.

Radar was added to Tesla vehicles in 2014, but was intended to supplement the camera and image-processing systems. Now it is taking on a greater role.

The update also includes more safeguards to ensure drivers remain alert while using Autopilot. If a driver ignores repeated warnings to take control of the wheel, he or she will have to park the car and re-start it to engage the automatic steering function again.

The changes come after a Tesla Model S driver died in a crash in Florida while using Autopilot this spring. The sedan slammed into a big rig after Autopilot apparently failed to distinguish between the white truck and the bright sky behind it.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the fatal crash.

On Sunday, Musk said he believed the improvements to Autopilot would make Tesla vehicles "by far the safest on the road," and probably would have saved the life of the driver in the Florida crash.

However, he cautioned that the update also did not mean "perfect safety."

"Perfect safety is really an impossible goal," Musk said.

Analysts have said the update is "meaningful," but ultimately limited, as it only improves the software and doesn't involve any extra sensors.

Tesla's stock was up $3.82, or 1.1%, to $202.24 in late-session trading.

For more business news, follow me @smasunaga

UPDATES:

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12:20 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details about the software update.

This article was originally published at 7:40 a.m.

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