Tech Industry

Tesla 8.0 update enhances Autopilot and protects your pet from overheating

Over-the-air software update includes big changes to semi-autonomous drive-assist functions and promises to keep your pets and children cool when left behind.

Tesla's much-awaited vervsion 8.0 software update has just been detailed, and according to the Silicon Valley automaker, it features "the biggest UI revamp since the launch of the Model S." The comprehensive over-the-air update covers everything from changes to the automaker's Autopilot drive-assist system to improved navigation functionality, a more advanced media player and a unique Cabin Overheat Protection feature designed to keep children and pets safe.

The update's headlining changes are to Autopilot. Tesla's semi-autonomous drive-assist technology suite has come under fire after several high-profile accidents. Key changes include an Autosteer automatically disabling when drivers ignore safety warnings (read: they fail to put their hands back on the wheel) and revamped object detection logic, which uses radar to register things the vehicle's camera system can't recognize.

Earlier this month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed that version 8.0 updates would likely have prevented the May 7 crash that claimed the life of Model S owner Josh Brown. The fatal Florida accident triggered an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Additional Autopilot changes include an overall retuning to improve smoothness in heavy traffic. The update also claims to improve safety by instructing the system to position the vehicle to one side of a lane when passing another vehicle riding close to the edge of its lane. In terms of new abilities, Autopilot can now automatically navigate highway on- and off-ramps.

Autopilot changes were widely rumored, but in a surprise development that Tesla is calling an "industry-first safety measure," version 8.0 also includes Cabin Overheat Protection, which uses the vehicle's battery to keep its interior at a safe temperature for children and pets -- even when the car is switched off. Musk noted on Twitter that with a full battery, Cabin Overheat Protection can keep a cabin at or below 105 degrees for up to a year by cycling on the vehicle's vent and air conditioning functions. He promises that the next update, version 8.1, will also include user-definable maximum- and minimum-temperature functions.

Other updates include improved voice command logic with a feedback transcript function and a number of changes to the navigation system including smarter zooming. It also allows for single-swipe navigation to and from home and work. A revamped media player with improved search capability is also part of the update.

According to company spokesperson Alexis Georgeson, Tesla has "just begun pushing over-the-air to customer cars," so if you've got a Model S or a Model X and have had a chance to assess the changes, let us know what you think of them in the comments section below.