One Small Step Closer to Autonomy: Tesla Releases 2019.40 AI Update

Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, Tesla rolled out a software update with the latest versions of the “Tesla Vision” Artificial Intelligence sensing system.

The release notes pictured above were provided.

Three major changes were mentioned in the release notes:

1. 170 kW Supercharging for Standard Range Model 3

I have a Long Range battery which supports up to 250 kw, but this is great news for SR+ owners who might encounter one of the new V3 chargers over the holidays.

UPDATE: I’m being told that LEMUR Model 3 are having their max charging rate upgraded to 200 kw.

2. Automatic Wiper Improvements

Automatic wipers have been improved to be more likely to activate when it is lightly raining and respond to changes in rain intensity for more environments. The automatic wipers are now employing the first production deep neural network trained with over 1 million images for the detection of water droplets on a windshield and additional weather cues. If automatic wipers is not performing to your preference, any manual adjustment to the wiper speed will be captured to futher train and improve the network in future software updates.


Yup, you read that right! The latest version of Tesla’s “Deep Rain” neural network has been trained with over 1 million images.

The story behind Deep Rain is classic Elon. Pretty much every car out there has a small rain sensor that they use to power their automatic wipers. But when Tesla engineers wanted to add one to the Model 3, Elon refused. He wanted to make the car as simple as possible –– minimal parts, minimal assembly, minimal complication. He decided that they would just use the Autopilot cameras to detect rain and set the wiper speed.

Sounds simple, right? Well, not really. For a long time after the Model 3 first shipped the automatic wipers were just terrible. After testing this latest update it’s clearly much improved, but not yet 100% perfect.

The good news is that the system is now learning automatically from driver input. Anytime the deep rain neural net messes up, just manually set the wipers at the speed you want. The neural net will note the setting you chose and save a short video of the rain to learn how to tune the wipers better in the future.

To many, using a neural net for automatic wipers may seem like overkill. But eventually, Tesla will have automatic wipers that are much better than the competition, in a way that’s very hard to replicate. Remember, being able to control the wipers fully automatically to maintain visibility is an important part of acheiving full autonomy.

One suggestion I have for the visualization team: use Deep Rain to control floor plane reflectivity on the visualization.

When I was testing this feature in the rain last night, I noticed how the wet road reflects tail lights from other cars. In the Model 3 visualization, you can actually see the red brake lights reflected behind your car, but very lightly. Using Deep Rain for wipers is something most people won’t even notice, since almost all cars have automatic wipers. But using the rain detection neural net to actually tweak the magnitude of the reflectivity and maybe even animate some rain into the visualization would be very cool.

The point of the visualization is to give riders confidence that the car sees what’s going on. Since the car’s neural net already knows how hard it’s raining, showing that in the visualization would delight the user and help them feel more confident that the car is aware of the current climate, and will adjust it’s driving appropriately.

3. More Aggressive Automatic Lane Change

Automatic lane changes have been tuned to make lane changes with more confidence. When the adjacent lane is detected to be open, automatic lane changes will initiate faster and be more assertive.


This feature will be welcomed with open arms by many Autopilot users. Recently, there had been some bugs where Autopilot was being too timid with lane changes. This new more agressive setting is very satisfying, and works great. If you want the lane changes to be as agressive as possible, you can enable “Mad Max” lane changes in Navigate on Autopilot. It’s really great –– it’s almost like it’s going sideways. I love it.

When you push the blinker, it just goes almost instantly. This should be especially helpful in Europe where nonsensical laws force Autopilot to complete the lane change within 5 seconds or abort back to the original lane. Though this makes Autopilot less safe, for whatever reason it is the current law in Europe. In addition to the system being able to change lanes faster, there have also been rumors that Tesla is lobbying European regulators to increase the 5 second limit to 20 seconds.

Little improvements like traffic cones, wipers, and faster lane changes might seem like small steps, but small steps make strides –– strides towards the goal of feature complete autonomy by the end of the year.

One Redditor also noted that Autopilot now has a minimum max speed of 0. Previously, the lowest you could set the max speed setting on Autopilot was 18 miles per hour. Now that restriction is lifted and you can set Autopilot to go a max of 5, 10, or 15 miles per hour. Yet another small step towards autonomy. Too small for the release notes, but a step forward nonetheless.

Cheers to the Tesla software team for having the balls to ship an update Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving! Knock on wood, I don’t see any major bugs so far. Subscribe to Whole Mars for more updates on Tesla’s final dash towards a feature complete Autopilot.

UPDATE: It appears the update also includes a dark loading screen for the web browser at night.

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3 thoughts on “One Small Step Closer to Autonomy: Tesla Releases 2019.40 AI Update

  1. We miss u on Twitter Steve. Thanks for this article. It would be interesting to compare updates to improvements in safety figures.

    1. Missing you on Twitter Steve — thanks for these on-point topics; and I love the rain visualization idea you described! Cheers

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