It took a considerably longer time than expected, but automatic rain-sensing wipers were finally rolled out to Tesla’s Autopilot 2 (AP2) vehicles in an over-the-air software update. Just as teased by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the latest update to AP2 cars was released on January 1, treating numerous Model S and Model X owners to a new feature to welcome the new year.
Automatic rain-sensing wipers have been a particular pain point for many Tesla owners with vehicles that are equipped with the carmaker’s Tesla Vision hardware suite. Considering that the rain-sensing feature was present in AP1 vehicles, many AP2 owners were particularly vocal about the missing capability on their newer generation vehicles. During Musk’s recent tweetstorm, however, he stated that automatic rain-sensing wipers would be coming to its AP2 cars very soon.
As it turned out, the feature was going to be rolled out just days after Musk’s announcement. As noted on the latest software’s release notes, the automatic wipers feature is still in its beta phase.
According to Tesla’s v8.1 (2017.50.3.x) update, the new automatic rain-sensing wipers features two settings — one that activates only when there is a significant amount of rain hitting the windshield, and a far more sensitive one that reacts even to a light mist or drizzle. Considering Tesla’s claim about the feature’s sensitivity, many Tesla owners have taken it upon themselves to see just how sensitive the AP2 automatic wipers really are.
Release notes and settings for Tesla’s Autowipers in v8.1 (2017.50.3.x) via BlueRocket of the Tesla Motors Club
As could be seen in this recently posted video, the latest rain-sensing feature reacts to even the slightest presence of water. In a short YouTube clip, Arm Suwarnaratana, a Tesla owner, used a simple spray bottle to lightly spray some mist to his car’s windshield to activate the feature.
While automatic rain-sensing wipers have been around for a very long time, Tesla’s recent rollout of the feature is quite unique because it the vehicle’s cameras and software to visually identify cues of rain droplets, contrary to AP1 cars that detect moisture from rain sensors. This is one of the most likely reasons why it has taken Tesla so long to roll out the otherwise simple feature.
As noted by one of the members of the r/TeslaMotors subreddit, the delay of the feature’s rollout might be due to the complexity of the neural network utilized by the carmaker.
“More than likely the neural network was trained not to just identify rain, but also dirt, dust, and debris and to distinguish between them. This would factor into the confidence level the system assigns to each camera in terms of trusting the input feed. That might be why this took so long to deploy, as it’s an important issue that needs to be solved in the near future as AP+ (AP2) needs the right data and interpretation to work correctly.”