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Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) Breaking Summer Autopilot Promise?

Tesla Motors Inc Model X sensors

Tesla Motors Inc probably isn’t going to get its update 7.0 Autopilot tech to the Model S in time to meet Elon Musk’s deadline. The software was promised by Elon Musk on March 20. Back then he said it would arrive this Summer. It’s now August 27 and Mr. Musk has just 4 weeks to deliver his update. The last thing we heard about Autopilot was a Tweet on July 31 that declared the tech “almost ready“.

Tesla Motors Inc Model X sensors

This is another example of “Elon Standard Time.” The superstar CEO has a habit of making promises that the team at Tesla Motors just isn’t able to follow through on. There are real technical challenges that might prevent the Autopilot tech from coming to market any time soon.

Tesla Motors Inc admits Autopilot problems

Elon Musk has been clear on some of the tech problems that face Autopilot right now. In his last tweet on the matter Mr. Musk said that the “Final corner case is dealing with low contrast lane markings (faded white on grey concrete) while driving into the sun at dusk.”

 

That’s a problem that Tesla Motors is likely trying to fix right now in the Autopilot beta. On August 18 Autoblog reported that the software had been given to a select number of Model S drivers in order to test and improve it.

The process seems to be taking longer than Mr. Musk first thought. It doesn’t look like we’re going to see the Autopilot update roll out to all regions before the end of the Summer as promised. We might see it some time over the next couple of months, but there are still real tech problems in the way.

Autopilot tech problems

Some members of the Tesla Motors community have expressed doubt that the firm’s Autopilot tech will be ready any time soon. In a thread titled “Bet: there’ll be no Autopilot this year” on July 17 user alex.besogonov said that “given that Tesla is still not on-par with other automakers even with the basic TACC and blind-spot detection, we can’t expect Tesla Motors to leapfrog them with the full autopilot.”

Other members of the community agreed. rdalcanto said that they didn’t see the features coming because the simple version that Tesla Motors already has in the Model S don’t work properly.

“My lane departure warning works great, until the sun is low and blinding me and the camera. I can put the visor down and kind of adjust to the blinding sun. The camera can’t and lane departure warning doesn’t work in those conditions” they wrote.

They said these were the “limitations of the current hardware.” User shop agreed and said “The Model S just doesn’t have the sensor suite and computing hardware to do things like this.”

Suing Tesla Motors for advertising folly

Some users, unhappy with progress and worried about whether they’d ever get the Autopilot with the current Model S hardware, are actually thinking about suing Tesla Motors.

In a post back in February Tesla Motors Model S owner wk057, already frustrated with the lack of info from Tesla said ” Essentially, if the car doesn’t do a main thing I purchased it for (autopilot for my thousands of miles of summer driving), then, as mentioned previously, I’ll most likely consider legal recourse. This is definitely something in the realm of a class action case if pursued, and I’m not against that if needed to press this further at that time.”

A class action lawsuit has been mentioned many times by people on both the official Tesla Motors forums and those on the Tesla Motors Club forums.

This being the web it’s not clear how many of these people are actually going to sue Tesla. What is clear, however, is that a lot of Model S owners are having trouble with the way the firm has presented info on the Autopilot release date, and the way in which it will handle the final release.

User alex.besogonov, the source of the original complaint we referenced said, among his options for how Tesla Motors will proceed, “1) Just pretend that it’s all been planned and release a half-baked unreliable autopilot. You bet I’ll join a class-action suit if this happens.”

If those speculating are right, and the Autopilot features will not work without some extra hardware, Tesla Motors will have to do something in order to make recompense.

This isn’t the first time in recent days that we’ve seen issues with the way that Tesla Motors markets its cars. The Consumer Reports review of the Model S P85D found that it was better than perfect, but it also found the 0-60mph in 3.1 seconds claim impossible to meet.

Autopilot on the Model X

The Model X is on the way, but we don’t know what kind of Autopilot features it might have on release just yet. The EV SUV is set to be released before the end of the current quarter.

As with all other projects on “Elon Standard Time” the car has been delayed many times already. Elon Musk says that a handful will be shipped before the end of September. Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley reckons that means about 50 units will hit in the third quarter.

Mr. Jonas expects Tesla Motors   to get 5,000 units of the car on the road before the end of the year. The question is whether Tesla Motors will be able to launch the Model X with Autopilot already installed.

We’ve seen the Model X on the road with a bunch of extra sensors installed. That might mean Tesla Motors is working on a new sensor package for the EV SUV, or it might just mean that the mule pictured didn’t have the Autopilot parts installed.

The problems with Tesla Motors Inc Autopilot

Tesla Motors can’t afford to release a half-baked version of its Autopilot and hope that it’s good enough. The feature could be downright dangerous if it doesn’t work properly. If it doesn’t live up to what was promised, the firm may have to face a revolt on the part of Model S owners.

That’s a tricky balance to keep. Tesla Motors has kept fans on its side in the past by being open about its flaws and giving them an incredible driving experience. People don’t mind waiting if what they get at the end was worth the time.

That’s why Tesla has more than 20,000 bookings for the Model X, and has seen huge interest in the Tesla Energy Powerwall.

Tesla Motors Autopilot is coming. It’s not likely we’re going to see it before the end of the Summer, but we may see it before the end of the quarter or before the end of the year. There’s real tech challenges in its way, but Tesla Motors has always been able to make users love its products.

Those with shares in the firm will be hoping that remains true through the launch of the Tesla Motors Model X, and the Autopilot software, whenever they might arrive.

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