Tesla Motors Press Conference: OS 6.2 Adds Range Assurance, Trip Planner to Tackle Range Anxiety

As promised by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk on Sunday, the Californian automaker has just revealed a new over-the-air software update for owners of its Model S luxury electric car which it hopes to push to all customers in around ten day’s time. What’s more, it includes two brand new features which Tesla hopes will not only tackle the real spectre of range anxiety among first-time owners but also make it ‘impossible’ for a Tesla Model S owner to run out of charge in their car without intentionally setting out to do so.

A new software update for all Tesla Model S owners will put an end to range anxiety by continuously polling nearby charging stations, says Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

A new software update for all Tesla Model S owners will put an end to range anxiety by continuously polling nearby charging stations, says Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

These two features, called Range Assurance and Trip Planner, make use of the wireless Internet connection built into every Tesla Model S, along with Tesla’s integrated network of super-fast Supercharger stations.

Other features included in the 6.2 updates include mainly improvements to accelerator and brake mappings, but also mark the inclusion of a Valet Mode and improved top speed for owners of Tesla’s latest car, the Tesla Model S P85D, as well as the switching on of active safety features such as automatic safety braking, side collision warning system and blind spot warning system.

Range Assurance

Of the two headlining features, Range Assurance works by constantly running in the background on every Tesla Model S ever made, polling Tesla’s rapidly-expanding Supercharger network every second or so to ensure that the car won’t be driven out of range of a nearby, free, functional charger.

Because it operates in real time, the system can even automatically send a customer to a new destination if a supercharging station goes off-line or suddenly becomes busy, ensuring that customers aren’t left queuing for a charge, and does so completely under the surface.

Range Assurance works by communicating with Tesla's Supercharger network to identify bottlenecks or failures, rerouting customers as required.

Range Assurance works by communicating with Tesla’s Supercharger network to identify bottlenecks or failures, rerouting customers as required.

Moreover, the Range Assurance application will collect data from weather services and mapping software to take into account any drop in range caused by elevation or weather changes.

“It makes it impossible for the driver to run out of range unless they intentionally try to,” said Musk, adding that even then “they’d have to say ‘yes, I’m going to run out of range’ twice.”

In other words, Tesla seems to have found a way to stop people Brodering their cars.

Tesla says the majority of the U.S. is now covered by Tesla Superchargers, making the Range Assurance software work like a dream.

Tesla says the majority of the U.S. is now covered by Tesla Superchargers, making the Range Assurance software work like a dream.

Trip Planner

The second headline feature comes courtesy of the Model S’ on-board route planning software. Working in concert with the Range Assurance system, it uses real-time data to plot the most logical, convenient route for you to take.  Like the Range Assurance system, it is fully dynamic, and can change its route planning if there’s a chance of situation at a Supercharger or charging station en-route.

Tesla's update will roll out to all Tesla Model S cars in about ten days time.

Tesla’s update will roll out to all Tesla Model S cars in about ten days time.

Where the Trip Planner comes into its own however, is the way in which it manages charging. As well as sending customers to the fastest possible charger and the most convenient charger — favouring Superchargers over lower-speed charging options — the route planner predicts remaining range on arrival and for the first time also calculates how long customers will need to spend charging at each location before moving on.

At each charge stop, the software will then notify the car’s owners via the Tesla smartphone app that their car has enough charge for the next leg of their trip, negating that oh-so familiar ‘checking on the car’ twitch that many plug-in car drivers have when waiting for their cars to charge on a long trip.

Its’ a clever move for Tesla too, since it advocates charging until you’ve got ‘just enough’ rather than spending extra time getting unnecessary charge. Since an electric car takes far longer to charge when nearly full, it also helps keep cars flowing in and out of supercharger sites.

Other updates

Also included in the 6.2 update when it debuts in around ten days will be the inclusion of the much-requested ‘Valet’ mode, allowing owners of the Model S to hand over the keys of their car and intentionally restrict power and performance when being driven by an inexperienced — or untrusted– driver.

Tesla's aim? To ensure no-one does this to their very nice Model S.

Tesla’s aim? To ensure no-one does this to their very nice Model S.

Musk said that Tesla is also “slowly waking up” many of the sensors included as standard in all Tesla Model S cars built after early October last year, switching on new safety features like automatic safety braking, blind spot warning system and cross collision warning on for the first time.

Owners of the flagship Tesla Model S P85D will also find their car’s top speed has been increased to 155 mph after applying the update.

Autopilot features coming in 7.0

Looking forward, Musk was reluctant to preview the upcoming major revision of Tesla’s operating system, but did say that a “Major UI” update would be forthcoming with system 7.0 to make it more intuitive to use alongside all-new autonomous drive features: auto steer and valet park mode.

Revealing that Tesla has been testing its autonomous vehicle technology by driving from San Francisco to Seattle, Musk said that Tesla’s autonomous drive software is at a level where it’s possible for its engineers to drive almost completely autonomously between the two cities without requiring driver input.

For those cars fitted with the necessary hardware, autosteer will be activated in update 7.0, due in about 3-4 months.

For those cars fitted with the necessary hardware, autosteer will be activated in update 7.0, due in about 3-4 months.

For the 7.0 update however, he said, Tesla wouldn’t be bringing that level of autonomy to customers’ cars quite yet. Instead, update 7.0 — due in about three or four months’ time — will add auto steer functionality when travelling on highways or freeways with clearly-defined lanes. Although the cars themselves are capable of autonomous drive in lower-speed urban and suburban environments, Musk said safety concerns about driving in suburban neighborhoods with no safety markings means that functionality will come at some point later.

What will be enabled for 7.0 however, is the highly-anticipated automatic valet mode. Only available when the car is located off a public highway on public land, the Model S will be able to ‘meet and greet’ its owner in the morning, summoned by the Tesla Smartphone App. In the evening, the car will also be capable of parking itself and, joked Musk “even close the garage doors.”

Of future plans, Musk was keen to keep focus during today’s conference call on the Model S and the new software update, but did indicate that the Model X crossover SUV — due this summer — will naturally come with the same features now being introduced to Model S cars, as well as debut some “exciting new features that the show Model X didn’t have.”

Is it really an end to range anxiety?

In proclaiming an end to range anxiety, we can’t help but wonder if Tesla Motors is challenging someone, somewhere to prove them wrong. But if we had to guess, we’d also suggest that Tesla is likely to keep close tabs on those who eagerly click past range warnings on long road trips, just as it already has with those who continuously drive their cars in range mode to near-empty.

If it works however, Tesla may well have found a software solution to a hardware problem that’s been plaguing electric cars for decades. Sadly, only time will tell if that’s really the case.

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  • Dennis Pascual

    I would rank the announcement as somewhat meeting expectations. As for range anxiety, having moved into a Model S from a lower range EV, I really don’t experience that challenge anymore. I figure that I can always slow down to get more range.

    • vdiv

      That is true even with the 40-EV-mile Volt. Tesla is risking that complexity overload anxiety replaces range anxiety, as phantom as either can be.

  • I mostly nailed it: he gave Tesla owners pretty much what we had in Better Place 3 years ago 🙂 I forgot to mention in my post that we also had live information on which switch stations were working and re-routing if a switch station went off line.nnTesla To Cure Range Anxiety? I Think I Know Hownhttp://www.israellycool.com/2015/03/16/tesla-to-cure-range-anxiety-i-think-i-know-how/

  • CDspeed

    Wasn’t there something mentioned about 4G LTE?

    • Ezzy

      No idea why they’d need 4G in a car…

      • CDspeed

        I thought I saw it mentioned in the live blog ealier that the Model S’s 3G was being upgraded to LTE. It would make updates faster, and other internet related items on the infotainment display.

        • Ezzy

          I doubt there’s hundreds of megabytes of data to be transferred in bursts in a car very often. I couldn’t even make use of LTE on a phone. I get it if you use it as an only connection and tether your laptop etc. from it. nBut then again, my unlimited 3G is close to 21Mbit most of the time. 100Mbit LTE made no sense as I stream pretty much everything.

    • CDspeed

      Ah found it,n12:40 A: All cars have minimum 3G connectivity, LTE being rolled out now. Connection always part of the future. nComments(0)

  • ukandy24

    Every October we get a slew of “winter driving advice” including not to go under half a tank of fuel in case you get stranded and have to spend the night in the car in freezing conditions. Half a tank is about 300 miles range in most cars and hours of heating – on the scale from anxiety to peace of mind, these features probably bring the Model S up from a 4 to a 5 where my diesel Volvo is a 9.5 out of 10. A leaf might be 2.5 and iMiEV 2.0. Steps in the right direction but not peace of mind yet.

    • D. Harrower

      Sorry, but 300 miles does not constitute half a tank in “most cars”. Every car I’ve owned in the last 15 years had a range of maybe 400 miles total. Probably more like 350. Sure, there are vehicles with 600 miles range (like your Volvo Diesel, perhaps) but that is nowhere near the standard.

      • ukandy24

        I have the least economical diesel engine in they did – the 2.4 litre D5 with a range of 594, the D3 & D4 do 726 and the D2 does 858 miles all on the combined mpg so further on highway. http://www.parkers.co.uk/cars/reviews/compare-cars/?items=51628,51631,38731 http://www.1728.org/mileage.htm Even if the advice is based on keeping just 175 miles range in reserve (1/2 of your 350), that’s not going to be practical in a Model S. My point was that there’s a scale of anxiety not an on or off & just as some ICE cars give you much more peace of mind than others, so do EVs. When put on the same scale, the best EV (Model S) is still down with the worst ICE. eg the Audi RS7 (0-60 in 3.4) 478 miles on a tank.

  • D. Harrower

    This is a nice little update for sure, but it won’t really do much for my “range anxiety” such that it is.nnMost of the trips I take where running out of charge is really a concern also have long sections without data connectivity, which means no realtime weather or EVSE status for me.nnI’m also a bit skeptical as to how well those things would work, even if I DID have connectivity. If the weather service reports snow, does the computer alter the range by some fixed amount? Does it change with the volume of snow? What about if the snow is blowing into drifts? Tesla provides no details as to how this new programming actually works (nothing new there).nnObviously, the trip planner will only report the status of EVSE capable of reporting that data, perhaps only Tesla Superchargers and Destinations chargers. Don’t have any of those with 1000km, so not much help there.nnStill, I’m sure it will make travel planning much less involved, as long as you live in the right area. Determining which of the new features are and are not of benefit to me is going to take some doing.