Tesla has kept a promise of enabling its ‘Enhanced Autopilot’ function by the end of 2016 starting with a fleet 1000 vehicles that feature a beta version of the new software.
Announced on New Years Eve, this update represents the first time the vehicle's features are powered by Tesla’s new hardware suite known as HW2 as well as the ‘Tesla Vision’ software adaptation.
According to Telsa founder Elon Musk, this will enable Tesla to launch and/or improve features quickly and more often. Additionally, Musk says Tesla remains on-track to launch full self-driving capability by the end of 2017.
However, given the much-publicized fatal crash involving a Tesla using the previous generation of Autopilot, Tesla is being understandably conservative about this 2016 year-end Enhanced Autopilot roll-out.
The company tells owners: “Similar to the autopilot function in airplanes, you need to maintain control and responsibility of your vehicle while enjoying the convenience of Autopilot in Model S. These features operate on a new hardware and software platform. Therefore, their rollout will be measured and cautious until we have generated confidence across several hundred million miles of real-world usage.”
And this is why it’s currently only in the so-called beta phase. Tesla tells owners: “To be clear, when we say ‘beta’, we do so to encourage a higher level of vigilance. If this were PC desktop or mobile software, we would not refer to it as such.”
This is what Tesla calls the first phase of Enhanced Autopilot and improvements and extra features can be expected.
Included now are features such as Traffic Aware Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, and Autosteer.
This time around, Autosteer - with an operational minimum speed of 30km/h and hands on the steering wheel required - is intended for use for what Tesla calls “low speed traffic assistance on restricted-access highways”.
Autosteer works with Tesla’s active cruise control to keep the car in its lane and a set distance behind the vehicle in front. But Tesla warns its operation is impaired in rain, snow or fog or “when a road has very sharp turns or when lane markings are absent, faded or ambiguous”.
Subject to successful on-road feedback starting with - but not limited to - the first 1,000 on-fleet vehicles which have now been equipped with Enhanced Autopilot, Tesla anticipates speed limits will be raised to normal levels within a few months.