Someday soon, Tesla's autonomous cars will absolutely change the face of transportation. They've done it before: Elon Musk's automaker has already revolutionized technologies for, and not least perceptions of, the electric vehicle.
But the big day for self-driving cars won't come today with the much-hyped release of Model S Software Version 7.0. That starts on a rolling basis, with Europe and Asia on deck after the US, pending regulatory approval there. The Model X, which has the same set of sensors as the Model S, should soon receive the same updates.
Why won't today be the day? In the popular spirit of incrementally introducing users to the experience of being driven by their cars, rather than the other way around, the new software does relatively little, and is clearly capable of more.
As the Verge gleans from the company's announcement today, the suite of new software features, called Autopilot , are Autosteer, Auto Lane Change, Autopark, and Automatic Emergency Steering and Side Collision Warning. But these are merely, in Musk's words, "beta" features. The company is instructing drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all times, even during these functions.
"We want people to be quite careful," said Musk, while granting that "some people" might take their hands off the wheel. "We do not advise that," he added, likely with lawyers whispering in his ear. "If there is an accident, the driver of the car is responsible," Musk added firmly.
Autosteer keeps your car from drifting out of your lane and manages speed and distance from cars ahead of you, a feature that the Associated Press notes is already available from Mercedes, Audi, and Volvo. Then there's Auto Lane Change. Tap the turn signal, and you'll automatically change lanes. And this one's very cool: Autopark, which scans for available parking around your car and then yes, parks for you. However, the Verge notes that this is available from a number of other car brands. According to the company, with the next software release, 7.1, you'll gain the ability to send your Tesla off to a parking spot or the garage on its own and then summon it to pick you back up. Valets: be very afraid. Last, Automatic Emergency Steering and Side Collision Warning, employing ultrasonic sensors to maneuver the Model S out of harm's way and/or alert the driver to danger.
"This is the game we're going to be playing, round and round, for the next five to ten years until there's fully autonomous driving," Karl Brauer, a senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book, told the AP. "Each time there's a step by someone out there, everyone will have to match it.
Consider the ante upped, but drivers — and they're still definitely drivers — can be forgiven for a bit of impatience. During the announcement, Musk said a fully self-driving car, taking you all the way from A to B with your hands wherever you'd like, will be ready within three years. But you won't just have to wait for that: You'll likely have to buy a new vehicle entirely, due to necessary sensor upgrades.via Tesla