The buildup was pretty big: earlier this week, Elon Musk’s tweeted that an upcoming software update for Model S would “end range anxiety.” The reality – announced at a press conference today – is neat, but perhaps not quite so game-changing.
Software version 6.2, which is expected to be enabled in the next 10 days, will include two new features.
Range Assurance, an application within the navigation system, communicates real-time with Superchargers en route as well as chargers at your destination, and warns you when you’re about to drive out of range. A map gives directions to the closest charging locations.
“It will be basically impossible to run out of charge unless you do so intentionally,” says Musk. You’ll have to “say OK” to the car twice before you can run the battery all the way to empty.
A related feature is Trip Planner, which figures out the fastest route to your destination, and displays the best charging options en route.
The next update, version 7.0, due in roughly three months, will be a complete overhaul of the user interface, Musk said, and will include an Automatic Steering function. “We’re now almost able to travel from San Francisco to Seattle with the driver barely touching the wheel at all,” he says. While Automatic Steering is said to be capable of handling suburban streets, for now it will be enabled only in highway driving.
Musk also made an interesting comment on another matter: “If we wanted to, we could create a 500-mile battery pack right now. But the driver would be carrying around a lot of unused capacity in the pack. The marginal utility of going from 300 to 500 miles is pretty low, and then you’ve got all the cost and weight of that battery pack. There’s a sweet spot around the 250-350 mile range, that’s really ideal.”