Tesla's semi-autonomous Autopilot upgrades are live. Model S vehicles produced after October of last year are now capable of automatic parallel parking, lane changes with the tap of the turn signal, and traffic-aware cruise control. Version 7.0 of the Model S' firmware will also add new apps and a refresh of the UI that provides the bulk of the driver's interaction with the car's features.
The updates are enabled by new hardware installed in the Model S as of late last Septemberr. These sensors include "forward radar, a forward-looking camera, 12 long-range ultrasonic sensors positioned to sense 16 feet around the car in every direction at all speeds, and a high-precision digitally-controlled electric assist braking system," according to a blog post from the company Wednesday. These sensors enable Tesla to gradually roll out new semiautonomous features via the company's signature over-the-air updates.
In addition to the features already listed, 7.0 also enables steering within a lane (to the point where a driver can take their hands off the wheel for a short period of time); collision avoidance on the front and sides; preventing the car from wandering off the road; and scanning for a parking space.
With this new update, Tesla points out that drivers are still in control of the car and will be for years to come, but the features will add confidence, safety, and enjoyment to driving. In a press conference, Elon Musk referred to the features as being essentially in beta and urged caution when using them.
The company claims that this is currently the only fully integrated feedback suite of camera, ultrasound, GPS, and radar, though doesn't use lidar as does Google's autonomous vehicle. Tesla also announced that the Model S fleet would provide real-time data to each other to improve the system.
While users must own a Tesla produced in the past year to use Autopilot, all future upgrades to the Autopilot system theoretically will take place automatically.
Source: Tesla Motors