Tesla Motors Inc is working on getting the first Model X on the road before the end of September, but those with a Model S already in their garage are waiting for something else. Elon Musk has promised that the Model S will practically be able to drive itself with Autopilot mode. We’re expecting the the 7.0 update, which will enable the new features, to be released sometime in the next few weeks.
Read below to find out what features Autopilot mode will add to the Model S, when it’s set to arrive, and how Model S owners will get the update when it does. We also have a couple of videos of the tech in action, as Tesla Motors continues to test its Robocar functionality.
Tesla Motors Autopilot is for the highway
Tesla Motors Inc. made a lot of promises when it revealed it was working on Autopilot for the Model S, and it looks like it’s going to back off on some of them with the first update. Elon Musk, in a Tweet sent out last week, said that Autopilot mode will have lane control and auto parking.
In a Tweet on July 31 Mr. Musk said that Tesla Motors was “almost ready to release highway autosteer and parallel autopark software update.”
At the very least Update 7.0 will be able to steer the Model S to keep inside lanes, and park itself when you’re not sure about the space available. The more advanced features, like being able to call your car in the morning and tell it to park itself at night, won’t arrive with Update 7.0.
There are rumors, sparked by Musk himself, that a lane-changing feature will be included in the Autopilot package. We’ll have to wait and see if that’s what we’ll get when the over-the-air-update arrives.
How do Model S owners get Autopilot?
Autopilot will arrive as part of Update 7.0 to the Tesla Motors Model S. Software updates for Tesla vehicles are delivered over the internet usually via the Wi-Fi connection at the owners home. When the update is released, Model S owners will receive an alert displayed on the vehicle dashboard or via the Tesla app on their smartphones. The alert will tell them that the update is available and it will ask the owner when they would like to download and install the update. The update can only be delivered when the vehicle is not being driven so most owners choose to download and install updates overnight.
The Autopilot update will only work on a Model S that has Autopilot hardware installed. Model S owners that ordered their cars in October 2014 or later had the the Autopilot sensor kit installed as standard equipment. If your car has the Autopilot hardware, all you’ll need to do is download and the software update and the features will be there for you to try out. If your Model S doesn’t have the Autopilot hardware your out of luck.
When will Elon Musk reveal the self-driving Model S?
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has been dropping hints about the Autopilot Update 7.0 in recent weeks. That likely points to a launch sooner rather than later, though the roll out may be slower than with other software updates from the firm.
When he first revealed the coming features, in a call last March, Mr. Musk said to expect Autopilot to hit before the end of the Summer. Depending on how you count it Mr. Musk has just three weeks left to deliver on that promise.
On Twitter Mr. Musk has been building some buzz about the Autopilot system, showing off the frightening but awesome Tesla Motor’s self-charging kit, and giving a look into some of the problems that the team working on Update 7.0 are facing.
On August 15, the update will roll out to small group of beta testers. Tesla Motors is likely to make a decision on whether to roll it out to other users based on how it performs in that test.
Mr. Musk has a flair for sales. If he’s Tweeting about something, it’s likely he’s building up for an announcement sooner rather than later. Expect the Autopilot update to arrive before the end of August, though it may only roll out to those in certain places, looking at California first, to start with.
Who wants a self-driving Model S?
The Autopilot Model S update is likely to generate a lot of headlines for Tesla Motors once it arrives. Though many other cars have similar features already on board, this is set to be the first time that many take notice.
Tesla Motors has a hold over the media, and most of the firm’s big moves are reported far more readily than than those of other car-builders. The Model S Autopilot update could be the “secret weapon” to increase demand that Elon Musk talked about earlier in 2015.
Steve Jurvetson, who is on the board at Tesla Motors and was the first Model S driver ever, says that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told him he had great interest in Tesla Motors’ self-driving capabilities. He said that if Elon Musk could get 500,000 self-driving cars on the road by 2020 he’d buy every single one of them.
Tesla Motors isn’t special
Despite the great following that the Tesla Motors Autopilot update is set to garner, Elon Musk is far from the only one working on self-driving cars, and it’s not likely that the Model S will be ahead of the pack.
Goldman Sachs reckons that Google will be the first firm to get a self-driving car on the road for real, but that won’t happen until 2017. Uber, and Apple are both involved in self-driving car programs, though both are far from a prototype.
More storied car firms are also looking to get part of the action. Mercedes and Honda are among the car-makers that already offer lane-keeping of the sort that Tesla Motors will bring to the Model S with Update 7.0.
Dodging the law
Autopilot will bring the Model S into a murky legal situation. Elon Musk, likely on the advice of Tesla Motors’ lawyers, says that the driver is still in charge of the car and will have to keep in control whether the car is working itself or not.
There’s likely to be more than one court case in the coming years that will decide who bears responsibility for a crash that occurs while a robot is driving a car. For the time being Tesla Motors is trying to avoid the whole problem by foisting the total control of the car on the driver, even if they’re only touching the wheel once every five minutes.
See Tesla Motors Autopilot in action
Finally, here’s a look at the Tesla Motors Autopilot update in action:
The above video isn’t keeping the lanes, a driver is still steering. The self-driving we get from Update 7.0 will be a little bit more advanced, including lane keeping and parking.
Here’s a bonus clip of what looks like someone trying to crash the Tesla Motors Model X, but being stopped by the firm’s Autopilot software.