Tesla’s Software Version 9 rolled out a number of improvements and new features to the company’s fleet of electric cars. One of the features that received improvements is blind spot monitoring, which now utilizes the electric cars’ suite of cameras to observe the vehicles’ surroundings. This was recently showcased in a demo of the feature, after a Tesla owner-enthusiast opted to conduct a brief test on how well Autopilot V9’s blind spot capabilities work on an actual freeway.
Prior to Tesla’s Software V9 update, blind spot monitoring relied on the electric cars’ ultrasonic sensors, which have a maximum effective range of 8 meters. Ultrasonic sensors are very useful for detecting nearby vehicles, particularly when cars encroach on lanes. The Owner’s Manual for the Model S describes how Tesla’s previous blind spot monitoring system worked.
“The cameras monitor the markers on the lane you are driving in and the ultrasonic sensors monitor the surrounding areas and the blind spot for the presence of a vehicle or other objects.”
With the Version 9 update, Tesla augmented its blind spot monitoring system by using the side and rear-facing cameras to detect vehicles and display them on-screen. These changes were explained in a blog post that Tesla shared on October 5, which outlined the features of the new update.
Full 360° View
Now, all eight external cameras from our Full Self-Driving hardware in every Model S, Model X and Model 3 are active, enabling better situational awareness on the road with a 360-degree visualization of surrounding vehicles. Blind spot monitoring, which previously relied solely on the ultrasonic sensors, now uses the side and rear-facing cameras to detect vehicles and displays them on-screen. When the turn signal is activated, and a vehicle is detected in your blind spot, the lane line shown in the on-screen visualization turns red.
New classes of vehicles are displayed, including bikes/motorcycles, light-duty trucks, and heavy-duty trucks, to provide drivers with a more complete understanding of their surroundings. The 360-degree visualization also shows vehicles in adjacent lanes, even when they’re behind or far ahead of your Tesla, and multiple lanes to each side of your car are now visible.
Tesla owner-enthusiast Erik Strait, better known as the host of YouTube’s DÆrik channel, recently took V9’s blind spot monitoring capabilities to the test. Strapping several cameras on the electric car and putting the vehicle on Autopilot, the Tesla owner was able to compare how the electric car’s cameras “saw” vehicles on its blind spot compared to the actual proximity of nearby cars. If the owner-enthusiast’s recently-shared video is any indication, it appears that V9′ blind spot monitoring system is eerily accurate.
Particularly noticeable in Erik’s demo, though, was what seemed to be a slight lag in how other vehicles’ avatars are displayed on the Model S’ instrument cluster, particularly when they are overtaking the electric car. That said, considering that blind spot monitoring is utilizing video feeds from the side and rear cameras, these slight lags could be due to the system shifting from one camera to another. This was particularly notable at around the 1:25 mark in the owner-enthusiast’s video.
Tesla’s electric cars might have gotten a significant upgrade with the introduction of Version 9, but the company is nowhere near finished. Further improvements to blind spot monitoring will most definitely be rolled out in the near future, and other capabilities, such as Drive on Navigation, will also be introduced in upcoming patches. Earlier this year, Elon Musk noted that the first features of the company’s Full Self-Driving suite are set to be released with the V9 rollout as well. Overall, it seems safe to assume that these improvements that debuted in the initial V9 rollout are but a teaser for things to come within the next few months.
Watch DÆrik‘s Autopilot V9 blind spot monitoring test in the video below.