Tesla adds former Apple exec for Autopilot program

Tesla has added a new player to its roster — a former Apple engineer tasked with leading the electric vehicle maker’s Autopilot program.

Chris Lattner spent 11 years at Apple, working on the creation of Swift, a programming language for developers making apps for Apple products. Lattner becomes Tesla’s vice president of Autopilot software, the company announced Tuesday.

Tesla is overhauling its driver-assist program in light of shortcomings and its possible involvement in two fatal crashes. CEO Elon Musk said the updates are being pushed out to Tesla drivers this week.

 

A limited pool of about 1,000 drivers have been testing the system. Musk said it’s ready to roll out broadly to Tesla drivers.

Some of the new features enhance safety, such as requiring drivers to consistently keep their hands on the wheel. The new Autopilot version relies more heavily on radar sensing to avoid road hazards.

The changes affect all vehicles with Autopilot, although more recent models with enhanced hardware will receive additional functions. The new software will also boost Ludicrous mode — in case drivers need to reach 60 mph in under three seconds.

Musk said he believe the company can run a coast-to-coast, autonomous trip with the driver never having to touch the steering wheel or a charger. The goal is to complete a Los Angeles to New York excursion this year.

File photo: Exterior view of Tesla’s Model S prototype.  (Dai Sugano/Mercury News)

 

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