Tesla’s next Autopilot update is all about the smooth ride

Tesla is improving Autopilot with a forthcoming update, with a focus on making the ride smoother while the autonomous highway driving system is engaged. Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted news of the update on Monday night, indicating that the new software would be rolling out beginning in June.

While Musk was not super forthcoming regarding additional details, the update will focus on the control algorithm that determines things like how and when Autopilot accelerates and brakes, which should help avoid sudden starts and jitters that can make for a less than ideal ride using the system today.

One of the challenges that I’ve noticed most companies focused on autonomy are increasingly concerned with is making sure that their systems drive in a way that feels “human,” which is a surprisingly difficult and fluid target to hit. Autopilot isn’t an autonomous driving system – it’s a highway assistance feature that still requires a driver to be alert and ready to take full control, but the challenge is similar: How to build driving features that make a human feel comfortable while still operating at maximum effectiveness.

Updates to the Autopilot system are now separated by the hardware generation of the vehicle – later model Teslas have different sensor and computing on board, which will eventually be able to handle full self-driving capabilities. The so-called HW2 cars have been slow to get updates needed to bring them back to full feature parity with HW1 vehicles, however – but Musk noted that June will likely see HW2 cars get perpendicular automatic parking and rain sensor capabilities, too.