Hinting that the feature might soon be released to the public, provided it doesn’t hit a major snag, some Tesla Mode S beta testers are receiving a promised update that adds a bit of smarts to the already high-profile electric vehicle. While not exactly a fully autonomous feature unlike Google’s self-driving car, Tesla‘s autopilot features do bring a touch of autonomy, if not assisted driving, to the mix, with a promise of an even more intelligent, self-learning software in the still undetermined future.
Tesla’s Traffic Aware Cruise Control is far from being capable of complete autonomous driving. Instead, it acts to keep a car within its lane using cameras and sensors built into the more recent models of the Tesla Model S. It also keeps the car at a safe distance from vehicles in front, mostly by applying brakes or acceleration when necessary. Its auto-passing tech is hardly automatic as well, requiring drivers to still switch on the turn signal.
Tesla’s autopilot features also works only on highways, hence the “highway autosteer” moniker. The reason for this is that, unlike residential roads, highways have set limits and very visible road markings and signs that cameras and sensors can use to control the car.
The autosteer functionality is a bit overdue based on Musk’s March promise. Part of the delay has been attributed to corner cases where road markings are less visible, like in low light and low contrast situations. With the feature rolling out to select testers, we can only presume that Telsa has managed to address that problem satisfactorily.
Although Tesla isn’t yet at the forefront of autonomous driving technology, this is just the opening salvo. Elon Musk being Elon Musk, we can expect more ambitious and even more daring technologies in the future. Like, for example, one that can learn driving settings from other cars. But that might still be in the very distant future, as Musk has not yet even teased when that will become a reality.