Elon Musk just shared a nice tidbit of a new feature the company is working on. Auto-rain sensing windscreen wipers are now a pretty standard feature on mid to high-end cars, but typically they require sensors in the glass itself, which are extremely costly, should you ever need to replace your windscreen. Tesla, being the forward leaning technology company that they are, came up with a different approach.
Tesla trained a neural net to detect rain on the windscreen, just using a feed of images from cameras. This means they can avoid rain or sun sensors and the system learned what rain looked like, after being fed a large array of data, once the model is built, the car compares the live environment against the model and all this happens without task-specific programming. What we don’t know is if the neural net is still learning, if the learning from each car is being transmitted back diagnostically to Tesla to further improve the system.
In the video we see, software engineer and Tesla Model S owner, Arm Suwarnaratana spray the windshield with water and the car responds accordingly by firing the windscreen wipers to clear the water. In a second video, the system is also shown working despite the simulated rain being just a fine mist. This is a pretty good demonstration of the system working and should correlate to a pretty seamless driving experience, where like auto-sensing headlights, is another driving instrument the driver can forget about.
If you have a Tesla, then you should be seeing anew software update, version 8.1 (2017.50.3.x), with the new automatic rain-sensing wiper (beta) feature enabled. This is highlighted in the ‘What’s new in this update’ dialog. After that, you simply access the setting from Controls > Settings > Vehicle, then set the Autowipers to ON. We’re actually not sure why you’d ever turn this off.
Ironically, once Tesla’s Autopilot software reaches maturity and the cars are driving themselves, seeing out the front windscreen will rapidly become a lower priority for the driver and passengers.