Tesla is finally rolling out the long-awaited “self-driving” update for the Model S software today (15 October), giving the electric vehicles the ability to drive, park, and brake without relying on a human driver. It’ll probably be best if you don’t hop into the backseat just yet, though, since Tesla’s self-driving feature is still intended to assist the driver, rather than take over the car’s operations completely. CEO Elon Musk promises this is just the first of many self-driving updates that will give Tesla cars expanded capabilities in the coming months and years.
Version 7.0 of the Model S software, which Tesla pushes out today in the United States, will add the self-driving capability. The same update will be extended later to Europe and Asia, pending regulatory approval. What the update does is this: installs a capability Tesla is calling “Autosteer,” which acts as a backup to the actions of the human driver. Autosteer enables the Model S to stay within its lane, keep distance from other cars on the road, and manage speed. In a press conference via phone, Musk warned that people need to use the new feature with caution. “We want people to be quite careful” at first, Musk said, while admitting that “some people” may take their hands off the wheel regardless. “We do not advise that,” he added.
In the same software update, “Auto Lane Change” makes it possible for the car to switch lanes automatically when the turn signal is tapped, and “Auto Parking” gives the car the ability to scan for a parking space and park itself if one is available.
Related: Tesla plans to develop a self-driving car by 2016
So, this update doesn’t mean that you can ride in the backseat of your own Tesla. But it does mean Tesla owners can have a little fun playing with the new abilities as we inch ever closer to a futuristic world in which cars can truly drive themselves. Musk did suggest that the next update, Version 7.1, will expand the self-driving capabilities a little further, making it possible for a Model S to park itself in a garage, or
The Autosteer feature only applies to Model S cars released since last September. Those produced prior to that time didn’t have the necessary sensors installed to make self-driving a possibility. A similar software update for the just-released Model X should happen relatively soon, since the all-electric SUV has the same sensors in place that make self-driving possible on the Model S. Tesla is just working out the kinks of the algorithms in the software to apply the technology to the larger vehicle.
Via The Verge
Images via Tesla Motors