It’s been in development for nearly a year, has successfully completed an extensive beta test program with numerous enthusiastic Tesla Model S owners, and brings semi-autonomous vehicle operation to Tesla’s flagship electric sedan for the first time.
And some time this week, Tesla Motors’ [NASDAQ:TSLA] long-awaited 7.0 Software will begin its official rollout via a free over-the-air update to each and every Tesla Model S, following an official press call tomorrow afternoon to discuss the new functionality offered as part of the update.
Autonomous– or autopilot as Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk likes to call it — was first detailed back in October 2014, when Musk announced at the Tesla Model S Dual Motor launch event that every Tesla Model S produced from October 2014 onwards would come complete with the necessary sensor and control hardware to one day make autopilot functionality possible.
Then back in March during a conference call to discuss Tesla’s 6.2 Software update, Musk said that Tesla’s engineering team had already successfully tested autonomous driving software in the real world, driving almost completely autonomously between San Francisco and Seattle without requiring driver input.
In the intervening time, Tesla has continued to test and develop its 7.0 Software update, rolling out a final invite-only beta to a select band of Tesla Model S owners last month ahead of the final public release. Having talked to owners who were part of the beta test program, we can confirm that the final beta was indeed impressive, allowing a Model S to keep perfectly positioned and follow a winding highway with ease with autopilot engaged.
Autopark, which enables autonomous parallel parking, is similarly impressive.
Thanks to an always-on Internet connection and fully software-driven systems architecture, the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X can both be given additional functionality post-purchase via an over-the-air software update system, ensuring that customers’ cars stay on the cutting edge of automotive technology long after they’ve left the factory.
Tomorrow, we’ll find out more about the full and final functionality of version 7.0 of Tesla’s vehicular operating system, including the visual changes which Tesla has promised to the user interface to make autonomous driving more initiative for the driver. At the moment, all indications are that the software — already included as standard on all Model X cars made and shipped since the vehicle launched at the end of September — will include autosteer functionality as well as auto lane change, allowing owners of suitably-equipped Model S cars to let their cars do most of the hard work on freeway and highway trips.
But due to legal constraints regarding autonomous vehicles and the necessity to dodge a legal minefield regarding liability, we also expect tomorrow’s announcement to detail the exact steps Model S owners must go through in order to enable autopilot on their cars. Based on previous public discussions Musk has given on the subject of the highly-anticipated free upgrade, geofencing and driver input will still limit where and when autopilot can be used.
For example, expect full autonomy to only work on private land, while autosteer and auto lane change will only work when the car is on a public highway or freeway. Moreover, we’re guessing the driver will likely be required to keep hold of the steering wheel throughout autopilot functionality in order to satisfy legal compliance, be fully alert and licensed to drive, and not be distracted by electronics or other in-car devices. Overtaking will also require user input, with the driver initiating each and every overtake by tapping the indicator stalk in the appropriate direction.
We’ll find out more about the new Tesla Motors 7.0 Software update tomorrow, when we’ll be listening in on Tesla’s official press call. As always, we’ll be live-blogging the event, so drop by Transport Evolved to hear the news as it happens.
Update: Tesla has requested all media participating in the press call keep all information disclosed in the call on embargo until 2:30 pm Pacific (22:30 BST). As a consequence we’ll no-longer be offering a live-blog, but we will be covering the press call as soon as the embargo lifts.
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