Tesla Motors Autopilot Release Delayed in Asia, Europe. Elon Musk Predicts Regulatory Approval in “Next Few Weeks”

Last week, Californian automaker Tesla Motors made history when it began rolling out version 7.0 of its automotive operating system via an over-the-air software update, bringing a public beta of semi-autonomous ‘autopilot’ features to any Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X electric car made after September 2014.

Hardware-equipped Tesla cars in the U.S. and Canada now have autodrive, but not in Europe or Asia yet.

Hardware-equipped Tesla cars in the U.S. and Canada now have autodrive, but not in Europe or Asia yet.

But while we’ve seen a slew of YouTube videos from North American owners keen to show off the auto steer, auto lane change and auto park features switched on by Tesla’s latest update, those in Europe and Asia haven’t yet been offered the chance to have their cars drive themselves.

During last week’s press call unveiling the autopilot features of version 7.0 and detailing just how Tesla Motors [NASDQ:TSLA] had developed its system, Musk acknowledged that while those in North America would benefit from autopilot features in the coming few days, European and Asian customers would likely have to wait until this week, saying Tesla was still awaiting ‘final approval’ for the autonomous driving software to be given the green light by regulators on both continents.

Now it seems that hope has been dashed with the news, broken by Musk himself last night on social media site Twitter, that the regulatory process is taking longer than predicted.

Autopark is also enabled with the Tesla Software 7.0 update.

Autopark is also enabled with the Tesla Software 7.0 update.

Sadly, Musk didn’t explicate on the reasons for the delay, but the folks at Teslarati theorise that “it appears regulators in more than one country have put the kibosh on Tesla’s suite of Autopilot features, at least for now.”

While the site doesn’t give any evidence as to the validity of its theory, it’s worth noting that many European and Asian countries already have their own carefully choreographed autonomous vehicle pilot programs in operation. Different from country to country (and in some cases city to city) these programs have been set up at great expense to carefully study and plan for a future of self-driving cars, and it’s highly plausible that stakeholders in these various programs object to Tesla essentially circumventing pilot programs with its over-the-air update.

The software update won't arrive in Europe and Asia until all regulatory processes have been completed.

The software update won’t arrive in Europe and Asia until all regulatory processes have been completed.

Another potential reason for discord is one of liability. In the U.S., Tesla has skillfully avoided the question of who is responsible for any accident involving a Tesla in autopilot mode by requiring that the driver not only click an acknowledgement that they agree to remain alert and ready to take over at all times, but also that they initiate each and every overtake or lane change maneuver by tapping the turn signal.

Tesla has even termed its first iteration of the autopilot software a ‘public beta,’ requesting that owners trying out autopilot keep their hands on the wheel at all times. From the videos on YouTube however, it’s clear that isn’t always happening, with the majority of Tesla owners who try out the autopilot feature eagerly crossing their hands and turning their attention elsewhere while the car drives itself.

Auto steer and auto lane change is already proving popular.

Auto steer and auto lane change is already proving popular.

A few videos have even surfaced showing the shock from drivers when the autopilot doesn’t behave quite as they’d expect, showing that even though customers have been cautioned about the use of autopilot, the majority are ignoring Tesla’s advice.

It’s concievable these videos, plus general caution over autonomous vehicles, means that some lawmakers are worried about the implications of letting autonomous vehicles onto the more crowded streets of Europe (and to that matter, Japan) without first thoroughly satisfying themselves that Tesla’s autopilot public beta is safe enough to be used on the public highway.

Regardless of the reasons for the regulatory delay however, one thing is ceratin. If you live outside of North America, you’re going to have to drive your Tesla the old-fashioned way a little bit longer.


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  • KIMS

    I think it is fair to say that the ideal scenario of a globally cohesive framework for how autopilot systems for cars should work and not work, along with the legal guidelines for liability etc., is decidedly utopian.

    I think it is also fair to say, that we are quickly approaching a state where technology will be forced more and more to wait for legislative processes, and that there will be many (and protracted) legal battles coming in the next several years. It will become mired in politics and legalities, which will delay the self-driving car revolution far more than technology and economy ever would.

    While my view is a bit on the pessimistic side of the utopian scenario, I should point out that I firmly believe these delays and obstacles will be largely overcome in the next 10 years or so, and that the mainstream basic level of autonomy will be quite high in 20 years, with a near (75%+) fully automated fleet of cars within the next 30 to 40 years. The social, economic and environmental benefits of this revolution are far to great for the process to slow down much more than that. (My reasoning for those numbers is based on how in 10 years, even people purchasing used cars will start to see some of these options included, and 20-30 years after my prediction on the legal work stabilizing, most cars on the roads will be built after said legal work. Various things can change these numbers, but in my opinion, I see more chances of accelerating the process, than delaying it past those numbers.)

  • Joe Viocoe

    I don’t think the word, “Delayed” is appropriate here.

    There was never a promise, or even an expectation of a date to roll out Autopilot in those regions.