Starting on Thursday, October 15, Tesla will download its Version 7.0 software to all Tesla Model S cars ever built. The process will take about 5 days for all cars in North America. Downloads to cars located in Europe and Asia will take place next week.
On Wednesday, several journalists got to drive a Tesla Model S with Autosteer in New York City traffic. The accompanying videos give you an idea what its like inside a car that steers, stops, adjusts its own speed and changes lanes without any input from the driver. To be fair, these autonomous driving features are not intended for use in the city. The system cannot recognize traffic lights or stop signs as of yet.
According to the company, “Tesla Autopilot relieves drivers of the most tedious and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel. We’re building Autopilot to give you more confidence behind the wheel, increase your safety on the road, and make highway driving more enjoyable.”
Included in the new software are systems that warn drivers of other cars or objects that are in the vicinity, an automatic lane change feature, adaptive cruise control that adjusts the car’s speed to that of the car immediately ahead, and an Autopark system that identifies an available parking space and then guides the car into it without any help from the driver.
The new software relies on a 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. The new software combines input from all those hardware devices to provide a level of autonomous driving not available in any other automobile at the present time.
But there is even more going on here. Because every Tesla is connected to the internet at all times, feedback from every car is constantly being shared with every other car. According to the company, “These mutually reinforcing systems offer real time data feedback from the Tesla fleet, ensuring that the system is continually learning and improving upon itself.”
Only cars built since October, 2014 have the hardware needed to enable Autosteer functions, but the new software has something for older cars as well. “This release also features the most significant visual refresh yet of the digital displays for every single Model S around the world. The Instrument Panel is focused on the driver and includes more functional apps to help monitor your ride.”
Tesla isn’t done yet. The company says, “We will continue to develop new capabilities and deliver them through over-the-air software updates, keeping our customers at the forefront of driving technology in the years ahead.”