Tesla plans self-driving ‘autopilot’ Model S feature via software update this summer

Car is “sophisticated computer on wheels,” says Musk
March 19, 2015

Model S (credit: Tesla Motors)

A software update will give Tesla Model S cars the ability to start driving themselves in “autopilot” mode on “major roads” like highways this summer, Tesla Motors chief executive Elon Musk announced today (March 19).

He also said Tesla had been testing its autopilot mode on a route from San Francisco to Seattle, largely unassisted, and that the cars will be able to park themselves in a private garage and be summoned by smart phone.

Via Verge Video/Jalopnik/Bureau Oberhaeuser: Riding in the insane Tesla Model S

Taking it a step further, Musk predicted at NVidia’s annual developers conference on Tuesday (March 17) that humans driving cars will eventually be outlawed. “It’s too dangerous,” he said. “You can’t have a person driving a two-ton death machine.” But he admitted that “the hardest part of helping cars drive themselves is what happens when vehicles are traveling between 15 and 50 miles per hour.”

Automatic downloaded car software updates

Other updates announced today were Automatic Emergency Braking (will engage in the event of an unavoidable collision in order to reduce risk of impact), Blind Spot Warning (alerts you when drivers behind you are dangerously close), Side Collision Warning, and Valet Mode (limits its speed, locking the glove box and trunk and hiding personal information). In addition, the software will update the audio system sound quality, improved radio tuning, and refined active cruise control. Other luxury cars have most of these features, but updates are not possible.

“We really designed the Model S to be a very sophisticated computer on wheels,” Musk said.

“With Tesla’s regular over-the-air software updates, Model S actually improves while you sleep, the Tesla blog explains. “When you wake up, added functionality, enhanced performance, and improved user experience make you feel like you are driving a new car.”

The software update also includes two apps to eliminate “range anxiety.” The Range Assurance app scans the Tesla charging network and routes drivers to the best one, and Trip Planner integrates the best charging options into a route.

“Tesla is a software company as much as it is a hardware company. … We view this the same as updating your phone or your laptop,” Musk said.