Tesla's big new feature: Autopilot now halts cars at red lights and stop signs

Tesla offers Autopilot for traffic lights and stop signs beta, as CEO Elon Musk promises Reverse Summon later this year.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Over a year after Tesla CEO Elon Musk touted Autopilot for traffic lights, the electric vehicle maker is rolling out the feature, which handles traffic lights and stop signs. 

As Electrek reports, the new feature for Autopilot means Teslas equipped with Autopilot will now be able to handle intersections. The feature is being released in the new 2020.12.6 software update and for now is limited to owners enrolled in Tesla's Early Access beta-testing program. 

The feature is enabled if Autopilot's Autosteer or Traffic-Aware Cruise Control is active on Model 3 and Model Y Teslas. The vehicle will slow down to a stop when it identifies a stop sign or traffic lights. It uses a combination of cameras and GPS data to detect traffic lights, stop signs, and road markings.

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Musk announced Tesla was testing the traffic lights feature in late 2018, shortly after launching Navigate on Autopilot. 

"Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control is designed to recognize and respond to traffic lights and stop signs, slowing your car to a stop when using Traffic-Aware Cruise Control or Autosteer," the release notes for update 2020.12.6 states. 

"This feature will slow the car for all detected traffic lights, including green, blinking yellow, and off lights. As your car approaches an intersection, your car will indicate the intention to slow down via a notification, slow down, and stop at the red line shown on the driving visualization."

Drivers can continue through a stop line by pushing down the gear selector once or briefly pressing the accelerator to move through it. 

However, Tesla notes that drivers still need to pay attention at stop signs and traffic lights and suggests that the feature is still a work in progress, with the feature gaining the ability to "control more naturally" as Tesla learns from data provided by vehicles.   

"As with all Autopilot features, you must continue to pay attention and be ready to take immediate action, including braking because this feature may not stop for all traffic controls," Tesla says. 

"This feature will be conservative, slow down often at first, and will not attempt to turn through intersections. Over time, as we learn from the fleet, the feature will control more naturally." 

As Teslarati reports, some Tesla owners have been testing the feature on roads in Silicon Valley. The YouTuber DirtyTesla found the system worked in various road conditions, but also that the vehicle unexpectedly stopped under a bridge when the feature was engaged. 

As CNET reported, Musk last week revealed in a tweet that a feature called 'Reverse Summon' would also be available later this year. It's an addition to the paid-for Full Self-Driving option. Reverse Summon allows the driver and passengers to exit the vehicle and for it to automatically find a parking spot.

Smart Summon, which launched last year, allows Tesla owners to use a smartphone to instruct the vehicle to pick them up. Tesla says it should only be used in private parking lots, but the feature was immediately used in public parking lots where the feature caused several near-misses. 

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