This afternoon Tesla CEO Elon Musk held a press conference to explain the Autopilot features included in the update v7.0, which the company will start releasing tomorrow to Model S owners.
If you have been following our coverage of the beta Autopilot, you have a good idea of the capabilities of the system, but Musk revealed a few more details and explained Tesla’s approach to the release. Tesla will start releasing the update tonight in North America, but the roll-out could take a few days. Europe and Asia will follow in a few weeks. Musk says that Tesla has a fleet of 60,000 cars with the Autopilot hardware ready to receive the software.
As previously revealed, the update includes: Automatic Emergency Steering and Side Collision Warning, ‘Autosteer’ (Beta), Auto lane changing and ‘Autopark’.
Autopark currently requires the driver to be in the car and only works in parallel spaces, but in the next update (v7.1), Tesla will introduce Autopark without anyone in the car. The Model S will simply park itself in your garage.
The company is being extremely careful in the way it is releasing the update. They are still calling the version a “beta” and they are asking drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel while using ‘Autosteer’:
Tesla requires drivers to remain engaged and aware when Autosteer is enabled. Drivers must keep their hands on the steering wheel.
During the presentation, Musk said that in good road conditions “people may (removed their hands from the steering-wheel), but we don’t advise that.”
When we tested the early access version of the Autopilot, the Model S would only ask the driver to hold the steering-wheel when the system momentarily didn’t have enough data to calculate the projected road, but we could technically drive without touching the wheel on the highway.
The main point differentiating Tesla’s Autopilot from driving assist systems from other manufacturers is the fact that all cars are connected to each others and learn from each driver.
Musk referred to each Model S owners as an “expert trainer”, which will feed the collective network intelligence of the fleet simply by driving the vehicle on the Autopilot.
Every week the system should get better by updating the driving algorithm. Musk said that Model S owners could add ~1 million miles of new data every day.
The presentation emphasized that the system will be a real help in high traffic situations. It works “super-well in gridlock traffic – you can almost take your hands off the wheel…almost…some people will” Musk said.
The CEO referred to using the Autopilot as “quite a profound experience” on a number of occasions throughout the call and that it is a milestone in the evolution of automobiles.
Tesla currently has a team of about 50 employees working on the software of the Autopilot, while a team of 100 people have been working on the hardware package. The whole company has surpassed 14,000 employees worldwide.
Slides used during the presentation and the audio below: