Tesla plans to release more features to expand its full self-driving capabilities later this month, according to CEO Elon Musk.
While Musk didn’t specify which features would come out later this month, there are a few features that have been “on deck” for quite some time now.
Tesla has tinkered in the past with the way they distinguish between “Autopilot,” the base functionality of all Tesla cars that includes safety features and the ability to drive and steer in one lane, and “Full Self-Driving,” which includes additional features that allow your car to make navigation decisions on its own.
Tesla’s website currently lists the features of Autopilot and Full Self-Driving:
- Traffic-Aware Cruise Control: Matches the speed of your car to that of surrounding traffic
- Autosteer: Assists in steering within a clearly marked lane and uses traffic-aware cruise control
Full Self-Driving Capability
- Navigate on Autopilot (Beta): Actively guides your car from a highway’s on-ramp to off-ramp, including suggesting lane changes, navigating interchanges, automatically engaging the turn signal and taking the correct exit
- Auto Lane Change: Assists in moving to an adjacent lane on the highway when Autosteer is engaged
- Autopark: Helps automatically parallel or perpendicular park your car, with a single touch
- Summon: Moves your car in and out of a tight space using the mobile app or key
- Smart Summon: Your car will navigate more complex environments and parking spaces, maneuvering around objects as necessary to come find you in a parking lot.
- Coming later this year:
- Recognize and respond to traffic lights and stop signs
- Automatic driving on city streets
That last portion, “coming later this year,” suggests to us which features might be coming in the March update alluded to by Musk.
For more than a year now, Tesla has been saying that “automatic driving on city streets” and the ability to respond to traffic lights was coming “soon.” In fact, that same “coming later this year” statement was on their website last year. So those features are currently behind schedule.
But Musk’s announcement today suggests that those features may be rolled out this month.
Tesla has also been working on “reverse summon,” which would let you get out of your car and have it go find a parking spot for itself.
Tesla did release a “full self-driving visualization preview” at the end of last year. This allowed owners with Tesla’s FSD computer (aka “HW3”) to see what the car’s system is seeing. It added 3D visualizations of traffic lights, cones, trash cans, street markings, and so on.
While this release didn’t change the car’s driving capabilities, it did reassure drivers that the system is seeing a lot of what’s on the road.
Tesla is also clear to remind drivers that, despite the name of the “full self-driving” package, Tesla vehicles do not currently drive themselves. They state:
The currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous. The activation and use of these features are dependent on achieving reliability far in excess of human drivers as demonstrated by billions of miles of experience, as well as regulatory approval, which may take longer in some jurisdictions. As these self-driving features evolve, your car will be continuously upgraded through over-the-air software updates.
So the full self-driving package is more for future software updates, not current ones. You still have to keep your hands on the wheel, you still have to pay attention to the road. Owners who have bought this package have done so for access to an enhanced feature set and the promise of future updates that will enable an actual driverless car — at least when regulations allow it.
Musk also stated that the company has been working with European regulators to roll out more Autopilot capabilities there. Last year, European regulators required Tesla to roll back some Autopilot capabilities. The company has been negotiating with them since then and is “making progress.” Musk hopes that things will be “better in a few months.”
We’d love to hear more about which features are coming later this month, and also hope that Tesla can stick to that schedule. Most of Musk’s self-driving pronouncements have been a little… optimistic, when it comes to timing, to say the least. It’s been several years since he first promised an all-autopilot cross-country trip, and we’ve yet to see that happen.
In the end, Tesla and other manufacturers will have to wait for regulators to catch up to technology anyway, which means even when the technology gets here, we’ll all likely be waiting for a while for it to be usable. This is especially true if some otherwise forward-thinking individuals in government turn into luddites when it comes to driver-assist tech.
But those regulators will act faster if the technology gets here faster, and Tesla currently leads the industry in terms of driver-assist software. So the faster Tesla goes, the faster consumers will get it. So we hope to see this software come out on time for once.
What new capabilities do you think will come at the end of March? And will they come at the end of March, or sometime in April? Let us know in the comments.
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