Tesla’s version 7 software has begun rolling out, which adds Autopilot features to the Model S and Model X vehicles.
But what exactly is Autopilot? If Google has been working on self-driving cars for so long, then how is it possible that Tesla is rolling out Autopilot to its vehicles so soon? Well, for starters, Tesla’s Autopilot doesn’t make a Model S or Model X entirely self-driving. Think of it as semi-autonomous technologies, similar to what’s found in existing car models that park themselves by using an array of cameras or drive themselves on the freeway using sensors and computers. Mercedes-Benz has been doing it with its Distronic Plus system and even a Ford Escape can park itself.
One aspect that makes Tesla’s Autopilot so exciting is that it is being rolled out wirelessly to its vehicles as an over-the-air update. Those who purchased a Tesla last year are benefiting from Autopilot without having to trade in their vehicle or purchase a new one. The same can’t be said about any other automaker or vehicle in today’s marketplace.
So what exactly can Tesla Autopilot do? Here’s a list of five cool things Tesla owners get to enjoy once they have received their update.
By using real-time feedback and a collection of sensors that include front-facing radar, a camera with image recognition capability and a 360-degree ultrasonic sonar, Tesla vehicles can now read lane lines and detect other vehicles. That means a Tesla Model S or Model X can steer itself and maintain a speed speed, helping relieve drivers of the most tedious and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel. Once the vehicle is traveling 18 mph, Autosteer is able to take control similar to how a conventional adaptive cruise control system works. This is arguably the most talked about feature since it makes driving in traffic so much less annoying.
2) Auto Lane Change
Changing lanes could be dangerous sometimes, especially if you ignore your blind spot. With Tesla’s Autopilot, drivers can simply select which direction they want their vehicle to go and the Model S or Model X will change lanes on its own once it is safe to do so.
3) Self Parking
Parallel parking can be tricky for some, but Tesla’s Autopilot takes all the guess work out for the driver. The vehicles can also park themselves in traditional parking spaces. Again, this isn’t quite revolutionary considering numerous automakers have used the technology in recent years.
4) It Shouldn’t Hit People
At least that’s what the world hopes, especially all the other automakers investing heavily into autonomous driving technologies. The last thing they need is bad press of a semi-autonomous car running over a pedestrian. Perhaps Tesla CEO Elon Musk said it best, “It should not hit pedestrians, hopefully. It should handle them well.”
5) It Learns
Tesla’s Autopilot is constantly gathering data to make itself better – or maybe it’s just spying on you. Musk claims that Skynet isn’t on the horizon and that the artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t quite advanced enough that we have to worry. But with every Tesla with Autopilot collecting huge amounts of data, the American electric automaker will be able to fine tune its system for the 7.1 update that will add additional features.
All that is great, but what can’t Tesla Autopilot do? Well, for one, it can’t go and drive to your favorite Starbucks and grab coffee for you, at least not yet. It won’t be able to park itself in a garage just yet, but in the near future, owners will be able to summon their vehicles via a phone app. For now, Autopilot isn’t capable of reading stop signs or red lights, so city driving for the most part is out of the picture.
Still, what was once the thing of science-fiction is now reality, and it all happened through a wireless update.