It's been an exciting week for Tesla. First, Elon Musk offered a preview of the nearly complete Model 3, then China tech giant Tencent invested $1.78 billion in the company. Now, Tesla has officially updated its Autopilot software today for Tesla owners with Autopilot 2.0 hardware.
This 8.1 software update will bring better semi-autonomous driving to all Teslas built after October 2016, when the advanced sensor suite was added into all new Model S and Model X cars. Included in the update are four new features and major updates, which we'll outline below.
Press a button on the Tesla mobile app, or on your car keys, and your vehicle can pull in and out of parking spaces without a driver in the car. Now this is a feature I'd be willing to pay $100,000 for alone. It's done with Tesla's hardware suite and Tesla Vision, their own image processing system.
This is the Tesla version of "Look, ma, no hands!"
The feature maintains the car's position within a lane, and the driver can very briefly remove their hands from the wheel (but only briefly, as the software requires that the drivers be prepared to take over at any time). While this feature was previously available for speed up to 55 mph, it has been upgraded to 80 mph. This higher speed does require some lengthy calibration, however, according to Tesla:
Model S requires calibration before you can use Autosteer at driving speeds greater than 55 mph. Until the vehicle has finished calibrating, which takes place automatically over several days of driving on well-marked highways.
This feature is exactly what it sounds like. Falling under the Autosteer umbrella, this option will allow the car to change lanes on its own simply by having the driver activate the turn signal when Autosteer is activated. This obviously also requires a road with multiple lanes.
I wish my car had this feature when my friend drove me to Cape Cod and the journey took three extra hours because she was "too scared" to change lanes on the highway from behind a truck that spent the whole trip going 30 mph. I can only assume Musk must've had a similar experience.
Giving a more literal meaning to stay in your lane, this feature will have the steering wheel vibrate when the car leaves its lane when a signal has not been turned on.
The features are all useful to drivers, and although only semi-autonomous, provide a nice reminder of why driverless cars of the future are predicted to be much safer than the human-controlled vehicles of today.