Tesla CEO Elon Musk has bold plans for self-driving cars in 2017, and his company took a step towards that goal after it began rolling out a much-anticipated Autopilot update to owners of its newer vehicles.
Unlike older Teslas, vehicles built after October known as hardware 2, HW2 were released initially without the full suite ofAutopilot features, which provide advanced semi-autonomous driving for use on highway. Thats because they shipped with different (new) software and hardware which, in the long run, willenable them to be fully self-driving. In the short term, though, this new update, announced by Musk on Twitter on New Years Eve, will adda number of a number Autopilotfeatures to the vehicles to get them near on par with older Tesla models.
But, theres a catch, and the updateis only live an initial 1,000 cars. Most owners will need to wait fora wider rollout that Musk said is duewithin a week.
Musk didnt go into details of the update, but Electrek reportedthat the release notes includeAutopilots Traffic Aware Cruise Control feature, Forward Collision Warning, and Autosteer, although the latterisonlyenabled at low-speed.
Owners of newer the Model S and Model X have had to wait a little, but thereshuge upside to that since their vehicles come withall the sensors and computing power onboard needed to achieve full self-driving oncethe software is ready. That explains the delay of these Autopilot features too its actually different from the original Autopilot system, and takes advantage of the new on-board computer vision capabilities made possible by the upgraded sensor and computer hardware.
Musk has said that he believes Tesla will be in a position to field test full autonomy by the end of 2017. What weve seen ofTeslas tests have looked impressiveso far, andthe newer cars will sit near the front of the queue as that technology matures and becomes available to drivers on the road.
But it has been a challenging 2016 for Tesla. An owner died in an accident in Maywhilst using the Autopilot feature.The company said the tragic loss of Tesla owner Joshua D. Brown was down toextremely rare circumstances. Following the incident, Tesla split with self-driving tech partner Mobileyeand the new imaging system in HW2 was developed by Tesla itself.
Wedid see the safety features offered by Autopilot make a positive difference in real-world conditions last year. A video of aTeslaowner in the Netherlands avoiding a seemingly-inevitable pile-up thanks to hisForward Collision Warning system went viral last week, while another recent clip showed aModel S P85D using instant acceleration to escape a likely crash.