A software update has made all Tesla S and X cars bought in the last year able to drive themselves.
Yes, that’s right, Elon Musk, our boy from Pretoria, has made the already-amazing cars he’s presided over even better and all it took was a software update.
People who bought Tesla S and Tesla X models in the last year literally woke up to better cars this morning, because Tesla had built the underlying functionality into the cars but had just not activated it with software yet.
The update brings a large number of tweaks and fixes as well, but the most interesting one is undoubtedly the addition of an “Autopilot” function that intelligently handles some driving tasks.
It’s not exactly self-driving, though – Tesla’s Autopilot is more like adaptive cruise control and automated lane-changing. It uses a range of sensors to tell where the car is, how fast it’s going, what’s around it, and even uses an onboard camera that can read speed limit signs.
Drivers are required to keep their hands on the steering wheel, or at least to touch it every once in a while so the car knows they’re still there. Should the driver not respond to the car’s polite requests to please confirm they’re still awake, it will put on its hazard lights, slow down and stop.
When it’s time to change lanes (as indicated by the driver who flips on the indicator) or simply keep driving along without crashing into cars around it, the car uses all of its sensors and data to do exactly that. The driver is still mostly in control, and can take over from the Autopilot at any time.
And because Teslas use screens instead of traditional dials and dashboard readouts for features like the odometer, fuel levels, RPMs and all that other fun stuff, the company can change those too in software updates, which is exactly what happened today. New instrument panels, more room for apps and the option to lock and unlock the car from the status bar all rolled out alongside the Autopilot update.
So yes, Elon Musk has done it again – managed to surprise people very pleasantly with some serious outside-the-box thinking. Sure, he hasn’t lived in South Africa for 20 years, but dammit, he’s ours just the same.
UPDATE: We found a video from Jalopnik that shows someone “driving” the Tesla X with Autopilot enabled. It’s awesome!