Is this the beginning of the end for taxis, Uber, and driving as we know it? Or just another nifty feature for the Model S? Either way, Tesla has begun live beta testing of some new Autopilot features. The latest software update, Autopilot 7.0, has been sent out to a small group of Model S owners. New capabilities include Highway Autosteer and Parallel Autopark.
Traffic Aware Cruise Control, which was first enabled in January, allows a driver to maintain a safe distance from the car in front by braking and accelerating when needed. A driver can also direct Model S to pass the car in front by engaging the turn signal.
Most of the new features work only on the highway, and require a certain level of user input. “We don’t want to set the expectation that you can basically pay no attention to what the car is doing,” said Elon Musk, adding that the system was particularly good at tracking a leading vehicle.
“You basically have high confidence in steering, braking and acceleration, basically when you are in some kind of traffic situation where there is a car right in front of you,” he said. “I think it’s pretty good in the absence of that, so if there’s just lanes, it’s pretty good. And it will get better over time as we refine the software.”
As Tesla gains information from its beta testers, it will refine the various Autopilot features, and gradually add new ones. But don’t expect to hear any play-by-play: beta test drivers that discuss their experiences with the press risk being dropped from the program.