Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) has announced that it is rolling out its Autopilot software to Model S and Model X cars built since October, which are equipped with second-generation Autopilot hardware. Tesla has been preparing the software for months. About two weeks ago, the company indicated that a widespread release was coming.
Cars with Gen 2 Autopilot hardware will now have a speed-limited version of Autosteer that will only work at speeds below 45 mph. Autosteer is intended for use on highways with clear lane markings and maintains position within the lane in slow-moving traffic. Vehicles are also gaining Forward Collision Warning (FCW), where the car will alert the driver when a collision is likely.
The Autopilot software is being deployed to eligible Teslas over-the-air. Owners will not need to do anything special for the software to be downloaded. Some cars will need to have their on-board cameras adjusted by Tesla’s service department for Autopilot to work correctly.
The update does not bring new Teslas to parity with the Autopilot and safety features available in older Teslas with Autopilot hardware. New Teslas do not have the ability to park themselves. The cars also do not have Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), nor Tesla’s Summon parking feature.
Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk responded to a Twitter question about the possibility of a paid upgrade path for existing vehicle owners who want the features available with the new HW2-equipped Teslas. Musk said focusing on updating existing cars would impede Tesla’s ability to create and improve new tech. Retrofitting older cars with HW2 kit would require stripping the car to its frame and replacing over 300 parts.
Musk has revealed that Tesla will be significantly revising the tech offered on existing models every 12 to 18 months, on average. The company is planning a more aggressive upgrade pace than traditional automakers, like GM, Ford and Toyota. Most cars remain relatively static in their basic design with no major revisions for as long as five years.
Tesla is a different kind of car company from what consumers are used to. A Tesla is a huge investment and significant model revisions could be frustrating to customers. Musk says that it’s a trade-off Tesla is willing to make in order to advance innovation.
In June, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot system after a driver died in an accident with the feature activated. The driver’s Model S passed under a truck and drove off the road due to the Autopilot system being unable to distinguish between the white truck and bright sky. The NHTSA closed the investigation on Thursday and said it will not issue a recall.