Musk: Partial “Auto-Pilot” Autonomous Drive Features to be Included in Tesla Model ≡

The 2017 Tesla Model ≡ all-electric sedan promises an all-electric range in excess of 200 miles, Supercharging capability, and a price tag of around $35,000, making it the most affordable Tesla electric car yet.

The Tesla Model ≡ will come with some self-driving technology, says Tesla CEO Elon Musk

The Tesla Model ≡ will come with some self-driving technology, says Tesla CEO Elon Musk

It will also include advanced Tesla-developed autonomous driving technology that will make the car capable of at least some basic self-driving activities, or as Tesla prefers to call it, a form of partial ‘auto-pilot.’

That’s according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who told the Nikkei in an interview yesterday that Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] will develop and introduce elements of autonomous driving technology in its third-generation electric car.

“The overall system and software will be programmed by Tesla, but we will certainly use sensors and subcomponents from many companies,” Musk said.

Unlike Google and Nissan, Tesla has been reticent to promise fully-autonomous vehicles, saying that while it’s easy to make a car capable of driving 90 percent of trips on its own, the final ten percent is particularly difficult. Instead, Tesla’s Elon Musk likes to talk about “auto-pilot” capability: a car which still needs its driver to be present, conscious and ready to take over, but which can handle most of the trip on its own.

Think of it as an automotive equivalent of an airplane auto pilot. While most commercial planes can fly by themselves while in the air, humans are still on tap to take off and land, and step in should there be an emergency.

Tesla's focus on fully-connected cars and software-driven design makes it easy to add self-driving features (assuming cars have the appropriate hardware, of course)

Tesla’s focus on fully-connected cars and software-driven design makes it easy to add self-driving features (assuming cars have the appropriate hardware, of course)

It’s this auto-pilot capability — or part of it — which Musk says will feature in its $35,000 electric car. While Musk says a full auto-pilot system won’t feature in Tesla cars for the next five or six years, the Model ≡ will enable Tesla to get something of a head-start on the rest of the automotive industry by including partial autonomous technology when it launches in 2017.

“I think in the long term, all Tesla cars will have auto-pilot capability,” he said.

With a heavy focus on vehicular safety, moving towards semi or fully autonomous vehicle technology is a predictable move for Tesla. With wireless data connectivity built into every vehicle and an emphasis on software-driven, over-the-air updates rather than hard-coded discrete functionality, it’s even conceivable that a Tesla Model ≡ fitted with appropriate autonomous driving sensors could be gradually given more auto-pilot features as they are developed by Tesla, much in the same way that Tesla adds new user functionality to its Model S luxury sedan.

Are you excited by the news that the Model ≡ will have autonomous driving features? Does it make you more — or less — likely to want to buy one? And do you think Tesla will achieve a lead on the rest of the automotive as it hopes?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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  • Michael Thwaite

    Good news, when the S shipped, a lot of people, including me, asked where all the top marque fancy bits where – parking sensors, range-sensing cruise, center console, etc. It’s nice to see the fixings catching up with the entree.

    • vdiv

      Now if they could only find a way to get rid of that prehistoric cruise control stalk that is in the wrong place, by maybe mapping the buttons on the steering wheel to do that…

      • Stephen Pace

        @disqus_AQMlJmgdXN:disqus Actually, if you drive a Mercedes, the Tesla stalk is in the ‘correct’ place. Just different for most drivers. 🙂

        • vdiv

          I do not drive a Mercedes as I do consider the brand as targeted for older folks who choose luxury over functionality. Having a stalk/a lever in the Model S where most functions are operated by a giant touch screen is rather anachronistic. It is very poorly sized and placed. The cruise control stalk used by Toyota for example is much shorter and located on the lower right hand of the steering column. It cannot be confused with either the turn signal/lights stalk on the left nor the windshield wipers stalk on the right. nnnnThe notion of the stalk and even paddles on the column is just ridiculous in my view. It is one of the items that bugs me about the i3, it looks like a tumor growing out of the column. At least BMW made theirs highly functional. But for cruise control operation that really needs 4 buttons (on/off, cancel, speed-up/resume, slow down/set) a stalk is too extraneous.

          • Stephen Pace

            @disqus_AQMlJmgdXN:disqus I’ll agree that it took me a little bit to get used to coming from Lexus / Toyota’s control, but now that I am, I don’t mind it. I especially like the fine grain control it gives you. Move it a lot and you increase or decrease 5 mph. Move it a little and you increase or decrease 1 mph. I use that a lot when I hit an area of highway where the speed changes. For instance, if the change is 10 mph, just press it hard twice and you will know the car will settle down exactly 10 mph.

          • vdiv

            Yes, I’ve heard of many Model S drivers actively using the cruise control and when I test-drove one it took me but a few mistakes to get the hand of it. This is where having an active cruise control would eliminate the need for multiple speed adjustments.

          • Stephen Pace

            @disqus_AQMlJmgdXN:disqus While I agree that adaptive cruise would help in some cases, it doesn’t do anything for the example I cite. On the road from Houston to Austin, there are plenty of places where the speed limit drops from 70 to 55 and back to 70 again. Three clicks down for the speed trap and three clicks up when the speed limit resumes and I’m good. Still a good feature IMHO.