Tesla is preparing to roll out the first Full Self-Driving features of its fleet with the upcoming release of Software Version 9. While Tesla has not revealed the features that would comprise the first capabilities of its FSD suite, an automated turn signaling system appears to have been teased in a patent filing, which was published today.
The patent filing is simply dubbed as “Vehicle Technologies for Automated Turn Signaling,” and it describes a system that utilizes the electric cars’ suite of cameras, radar, and ultrasonic sensors to enable the vehicle to activate its turn signals without human input. The patent’s international filing date was listed on February 22, 2018, and its inventor was listed as Sean Haight, Ph.D., a Staff Passive Safety Test Engineer at Tesla.
Tesla notes in its patent filing that turn signals today, including those that are equipped with smart features, still rely on human input to be activated. Since manual activation of the turn signals is still required, it is not rare for the safety feature to be enabled too late when drivers navigate into a turn. The electric car maker notes that this creates a dangerous situation, particularly in areas where vehicles are traveling at high speeds.
The patent filing outlines a system that uses a processor that would analyze input from the electric cars’ suite of sensors to determine if the vehicle is turning left or right. By analyzing a series of factors such the movements of the steering wheel, the vehicle would be able to activate its turn signals automatically. Following is a diagram outlining how Tesla’s Automated Turn Signaling system would work.
Tesla describes the system in the following excerpt from the patent filing.
“An embodiment includes a method of automated turn signaling, the method comprising: determining, via the processor, that a vehicle will cross a lane line or turn based on a measured steering angle value that is within a value range stored in a memory, wherein the car includes the processor, the memory, and the turn signal source; and activating, via the processor, the turn signal source based on the determination that a vehicle will cross a lane line or turn.
“An embodiment includes a storage device having stored therein a set of processor executable instructions which, when executed by an electronic processing system, cause the electronic processing system to: determine a path of travel of a first vehicle relative to a lane line based on a first set of data received from an image capture device of the first vehicle; determine that a second vehicle is present within a predetermined distance from the first vehicle based on a second set of data received from a reflective wave detector; activate a turn signal source of the first vehicle when (a) the first vehicle has a travel path and a steering angle such that the first vehicle will cross the lane line or effect a turn, and (b) the second vehicle is present within the predetermined distance from the first vehicle.”
The full text of Tesla’s patent on Automated Turn Signaling could be viewed here.
Automated Turn Signaling is a feature that would be incredibly useful for drivers, particularly those who travel through high-speed highways on a consistent basis. The automatic feature outlined in the patent filing is also a perfect fit for Tesla’s Autopilot and its upcoming Full Self-Driving suite. Autopilot, after all, has already reached a certain level of refinement on freeways, but the driver-assist system still leaves much to be desired when attempting to perform actions such as highway on-ramp to off-ramp maneuvers. This capability was specifically mentioned by Stuart Bowers, a member of Tesla’s Autopilot team, back in the company’s Q2 2018 earnings call.
“A lot of the focus is on Autopilot V9, which is our sort of on-ramp to off-ramp solution that’s going to automatically attempt to change lanes, understand what lane the car is in, understand the route the user wants to travel and take that route for the user and ultimately hand back control to that user which is kind of stay in control,” Bowers said.
Automated Turn Signaling also appears to be a perfect fit for a feature teased by Elon Musk himself in the most recent earnings call. While speaking about Tesla’s upcoming Full Self-Driving suite and the upcoming improvements to Autopilot, Musk teased a feature called Integrated Navigation, which would allow vehicles to navigate towards a set destination.
“Integrated navigation. So, you’d like by the way, a little tip for if you’re driving Model S or X or 3, is if you just tap the Navigate button and just drag down, it will automatically navigate you to your home or work, depending upon where you are. That’s a pretty cool feature,” Musk said.
Tesla’s Software Version 9 is expected to see a wide rollout sometime in September. Apart from improved Autopilot capabilities and the introduction of the first Full Self-Driving features, Tesla is also introducing some fun, new Easter Eggs for V9’s release. Among these are some classic Atari titles such as Pole Position, which would have its controls linked to the electric cars’ steering wheel.