Tesla Autopilot update 'could have prevented fatal crash'

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Tesla's CEO has said that a recent update to the manufacturer's Autopilot function could have prevented the crash which killed a Model S driver earlier this year.

Autopilot 8.0 heavily implements radar in order to give Tesla models a better sense of what is around them, letting them know when to slow down and brake, Elon Musk claims.

Another feature of the update is audio warnings when drivers take their hands off the wheel for too long - more than a minute above 72kph (45mph) with no vehicle in front of them or more than three minutes above that speed behind another vehicle.

If a driver ignores three warnings in an hour, the Autopilot system will shut off until the car has been parked.

Former Navy Seal Joshua Brown died on May 7 when his car, which was in Autopilot mode, crashed into the side of a trailer of a truck crossing a highway, after mistaking its pale sides with the similarly-coloured sky.

Brown was said to be watching a Harry Potter movie at the time of the crash – leaving Autopilot to control the vehicle – and so may have been distracted from the road.

His death brought the system under scrutiny, with some critics claiming it lulls motorists into a false sense of security. The move to introduce hands-free warnings came in a response to these concerns.

In a telephone press conference with journalists, Musk said that it was 'very likely' the improvements would have prevented Brown's death. However, he warned that it still 'doesn't mean perfect safety'.