We now know what Elon Musk meant when he tweeted earlier this week about ending “range anxiety.”
There are two key software updates to the Model S sedan, under the 6.2 release, currently in beta testing with Tesla owners.
The first is a “range assurance” application, which according to Musk will make it impossible to run out of range with the Model S sedan unless “you do so intentionally.” The app communicates with Tesla’s Supercharger network and warns you if you’re in danger of running out of range, then finds the closest Supercharger.
The second is a trip planner, which will integrate the Supercharger network with the network of Model S cars on the road and their navigation systems. The feature will optimise long-distance trips for drivers, directing drivers toward what Musk called the “convenience inflection points” of travel.
Basically, a Model S will know where it is, where the closest Supercharger is at all times, and how much battery charge it has remaining, as well as how far it has to go to a given destination, if that information is available.
“It’s a big network of Superchargers communicating with a big network of cars,” Musk said. “This has never happened before.”
The full 6.2 release will hit in about two weeks.
Musk acknowledged that most current Tesla owners, with a minimum fully charged range of 200-plus miles, don’t really suffer from “range anxiety,” the fear that your electric car will run out of juice. But he pointed out that effectively ending any range concerns with Tesla vehicles will provide peace of mind to prospective Tesla buyers.
Musk also discussed new features coming online with future software updates that will enable autonomous driving aspects of the Model S to evolve. Autosteering will arrive soon, and in the future you’ll be able to “summon” your Model S to your location, as well as send your Model S back to its garage to put itself to sleep.
The autosteering feature actually has the capability of getting the Model S from point to point, with hands off the wheel. However, when the feature is available it will only be enabled for highways or major roads and on private property at low speeds.
Due to sophisticated sensors, Musk said that the Model S currently has the ability to navigate itself in the dark. Technology, however, is ahead of legal regulations at this point. Musk said that Tesla was in contact with government regulators about the new capabilities, discussing when they could be officially activated in vehicles.
Musk noted that Tesla thinks of itself as a Silicon Valley software company, as much as a car maker. He said that Tesla set out to build a very sophisticated computer on wheels.
“Most cars don’t improve over time,” he said. “But the Model S does get faster, smarter, and better as time passes. The car gets better as you sle. When you wake up, it’s like driving a new car.”
All these updates and features will also be available on the forthcoming Tesla Model X SUV, slated to arrive later in 2015.
Tesla stock slipped slightly in trading on Thursday, to $US198.
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