Tesla to upgrade driverless software; stops accepting Bitcoin over carbon concerns

Tesla founder Elon Musk has said his firm may release an upgraded version of its self-driving software to vehicles in the coming months and will tweak the software to eliminate a phantom braking problem.

Writing on Twitter, Musk said: “I think we’re maybe a month or two away from wide beta. But these things are hard to predict accurately.”

With Tesla dissolving its PR department last year, many announcements now come directly via Musk on Twitter or via offhand comments to reporters at press events.

The automaker’s Autopilot software has recently come under scrutiny after a crash in Texas killed two people.

Both passengers were not abiding by the rules which require someone to remain in the driver’s seat at all times, ready to take control of the vehicle. Nevertheless, the automated system caused the crash while trying to take a corner at high speed.

Rather than using lidar, the approach favoured by other driverless tech firms such as Google, and which requires expensive hardware, Tesla’s Autopilot uses cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radar to see and sense the environment around the car. However, it is also not intended, at this stage, to be used without the possibility of additional input from a human driver.

When asked by a Twitter user whether its vision-only system would remove the “phantom braking” issue, in which a Tesla car sometimes applies a brake abruptly under an overpass or a bridge, Musk replied, “Yes.”

Tesla has also said it will stop accepting Bitcoin as payment for its vehicles just months after the firm purchased $1.5bn worth of the cryptocurrency in a move that bolstered its increasing value.

In another tweet, Musk said the decision was made due to concerns over the high electricity usage of the Bitcoin network and the fact that much of this is generated using coal and other fossil fuels.

It came just one day after Musk asked Twitter users if they thought his firm should start accepting Dogecoin for payments, an alternative cryptocurrency that is ultimately based on the same framework as Bitcoin and makes similar demands on the energy network.

Following the decision to stop taking Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency's value immediately fell by 5 per cent. This occurred just a week after Musk called Dogecoin a “hustle” while hosting an episode of Saturday Night Live, which also caused that currency’s value to drop.

Chris Sedgwick, director of security operations at cyber security firm Talion, said: “The conception that Bitcoin uses a lot of energy is a fact, however the breakdown of energy type is a bit more contentious. The latest study from the University of Cambridge in their ‘3rd Global Cryptoasset Benchmarking Study’ states that 39 per cent of proof-of-work mining is powered by renewable energy, mainly hydroelectric.

“With 76 per cent of these operations using renewable energies as part of their energy mix. The reason for this is because Bitcoin mining operations tend to centralise around places where energy is cheap and half of global mining takes place in one location in China, very close to hydroelectric capabilities.

“In this region, 5 per cent comes from burning coal and 95 per cent is from renewables (mainly hydroelectric). Whether it is hydroelectric energy sources in China, geothermal in Iceland or nuclear sites in France, these sites are often poorly located for other energy uses and thus Bitcoin mining seems a natural fit and there is a direct incentive for Bitcoin to make the most of these green forms of energy.

“All of which, ironically, means Bitcoin makes better use of these renewable energy technologies than almost any other industry.”

Earlier this week, a mission to the Moon dubbed Doge-1 was announced, which is planned for the first quarter of 2022 using a SpaceX rocket and paid for entirely using Dogecoin.

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