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Tesla equips Model S with autonomous mode

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Tesla has equipped many of its Model S cars with an autonomous driving mode, representing part of its latest ‘version 7.0’ software update.

The new mode – called Autopilot – is intended primarily for motorway use, with the car able to change lanes and react to traffic flow autonomously. It will be made available overnight to approximately 60,000 cars built since last September and specified with the forward-facing camera and ultrasonic sensor system needed for the mode to operate.

Tesla regards the update as a ‘public beta’, with an enhanced system incorporating certain signs and traffic lights arriving with the next software update. As it is effectively a guinea pig for forthcoming systems, Tesla recommends drivers keep their hands on the wheel at all times.

Autopilot employs ultrasonic sensors dotted around the car, with a forward-facing camera able to read road signs, and radar designed to see through rain, snow and fog, enabling the Model S to effectively drive itself on open stretches of motorway.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk told Autocar: “We still think of this as a public beta, so we want people to be quite careful with it at first. But it learns over time. The network of vehicles is constantly learning and as we release the software and more people enable Autopilot, the information about how to drive is uploaded to the network.”

Of course, the software is installed in much the same way as a phone or PC update, with owners receiving it electronically, doing away with the need for a trip to the dealer.

The US market will receive the update first, being up and running in a couple of days. Asian and European customers – including the UK – will have the new software within the week. It is believed that the recently revealed Model X will also benefit from the software.

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