Tesla Autodrive Software Patch
Tesla Motors held a press call today to detail some of the big new features coming over-the-air to current and future Model S owners, and they’re pretty significant. According to what Elon Musk had to say, an update coming in a few weeks will “end range anxiety” both in town and on long-distance trips, while later this year a major software overhaul will turn the Model S into a semi-autonomous car that can handle the highway by itself and pick you up at your door.
Short-Term Updates: GPS Software That Won’t Let You Run Out of Juice
The first feature Musk announced is called Range Assurance. Basically, it’s an always-running application within the car’s navigation system that communicates with the network of Tesla Supercharging stations and parking-spot chargers around you. Even if you’re not using the car’s navigation system to get to a destination, Range Assurance keeps tabs on your battery-charge level and your proximity to charging facilities. If your battery is running low, the car will give you a list of nearby Superchargers and parking-spot charging facilities, and if you’re headed beyond the radius of nearby chargers without enough juice to get to the next facility, it’ll warn you and offer to direct you to the nearest charge point.
Seeing a Tesla is about to get a lot more wild, as the company is preparing to install its self-driving software in the Model S fleet. The autopilot feature will only work on highways… as the technology may not yet be legal in the US.
Tesla will roll out an auto-steering software update for the Model S in the next three or four months, and owners won’t even have to go into a Tesla store for the upgrade, founder Elon Musk said at a Thursday press conference.
Read more ‘Personal roller coaster’: Tesla Motors unveils electric Model S that drives itself
Drivers will only be able to engage the autonomous system while on highways, despite having the technical ability to do a lot more.
“It is technically capable of going from parking lot to parking lot,” Musk said. “But we won’t be enabling that for users with this hardware suite, because we don’t think it’s likely to be safe in suburban neighborhoods,” he continued, noting that such streets often lack posted speed limit signs and pose obstacles like children playing in the street.
“There’s certainly an expectation that when autopilot on the Model S is enabled, that you’re paying attention. But it should also take care of you if you have moments of distraction,” the Tesla founder added.
The company has been testing the software mainly between San Francisco and Seattle.
“We’re pretty excited about the progress we’re making there,” Musk said. “We’re now almost able to travel all the way from San Francisco to Seattle without the driver touching any controls at all.”
Engadget pointed out that the electric car’s new technology is not a huge leap from current automobile abilities.
“We’ve already seen plenty of car companies offer things like assisted parallel parking ‒ an evolved form of cruise control seems like the next logical step,” the tech site wrote.
But the update may be ahead of the law when it comes to self-driving cars, experts warn. Only four states (California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada)allow for driverless cars.
Washington, DC announced new rules at the beginning of April 2014 that would make it the first jurisdiction to license self-driving car operators (rather than just testers). And the federal government has authorized only a handful of test locations for “connected cars,” where vehicles use technology to communicate with other similarly equipped vehicles that alert drivers to potentially dangerous situations.