Earlier this year, Tesla announced plans to roll out the new autopilot feature of its Model S line of electric vehicles sometime during the summer. Now, Tesla CEO Elon Musk says the vast majority of owners won’t be given the opportunity to try out the new feature for at least another few months, depending mostly on user feedback. The beta version of the software update will be provided to a small pool of owners beginning on August 15.
Of course, if there are any major accidents after the pool of users is selected, you can expect some serious delays concerning automated vehicles in general.
If you haven’t seen the autopilot feature in action, check out this Bloomberg video released earlier this year:
What exactly will Tesla’s Model S autopilot do for drivers?
Many people expressed confusion when autopilot was first announced during development. Musk suggests that the Model S autopilot will simply be an extension of cruise control and similar features that make driving easier:
It’s much like autopilot in a plane. You turn it on in a plane, but there’s still some expectation the pilot will pay attention to what the plane is doing and won’t go to sleep or disappear from the cockpit…We don’t want to set the expectation that you can basically pay no attention to what the car is doing.
Autopilot is simple in theory: using exterior cameras and GPS, the vehicle extrapolates information on the surrounding environment to take control of the vehicle in certain highway driving situations. The feature will turn over control of the vehicle to drivers when in the vicinity of urban areas and other places where the feature is not currently available.
Other automakers are moving quickly to obtain and release the same technology, but Tesla is the first to release a version to the public. Hopefully this technology will lead to more interest in environmentally-friendly vehicles like the Model S.