Tesla is making big moves to get its cars ready for fully autonomous driving.
The automaker, which is now bigger than Ford and GM in market cap, released 5 new Autopilot features over the weekend.
The latest update is supported by the cars second-generation hardware suite that has been integrated into production vehicles since last October. It will also pave the way for Tesla cars to become fully self-driving down the road, pending regulatory approval and further software validation.
Here’s everything you need to know:
New Tesla cars still come with one radar sensor, but it has enhanced processing that allows it to see through heavy rain, fog, dust, and even a car in front of it.
Tesla is also still using 12 ultrasonic sensors -- however, they have been updated to detect hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the previous sensors.
The new vehicles also use Nvidia's Drive PX2, a new onboard computer system with 40 times as much computing power as Tesla's previous system.
If you buy a new Tesla, you can opt to purchase the new Autopilot system for $around $A6,604. That system will take advantage of four of the car's eight cameras as well as the radar, 12 sensors, and the new onboard computing system.
Enhanced Autopilot will allow the car to match its speed to traffic conditions, automatically change lanes without driver input, merge on and off highways, and park itself. It will also be able to manoeuvre around objects in a more complex environment than it could before when you summon it.
Tesla is releasing those new features in phases. The first phase, which rolled out in January, includes active cruise control, forward collision warning, and Autosteer. However, Musk Autosteer was capped to operate at speeds at or below 45 mph.
The January software update also included an Easter Egg that allows the Model S P100D to accelerate to 60 mph in 2.4 seconds in Ludicrous mode.
The March release allows Autosteer to operate at speeds up to 80 mph. Tesla drivers can also now take advantage of auto lane change, parallel autopark, lane departure warning, and summon.
The new software update also allows Tesla owners to use the car's giant touchpad as a touchscreen by touching the 'T' button three times. Musk showed off the feature by drawing a farting unicorn.
By the end of 2017, Musk said a Tesla will be able to drive itself completely autonomously thanks to the second-generation Autopilot system. Musk said on Twitter in January that the self-driving capability will definitely go live in 6 months.
Tesla's full self-driving system will cost around $A10,566 at the time of purchase and will include all the features of Enhanced Autopilot. Although Musk is planning a demo of that system, Tesla owners won't be able to use it without regulatory approval.
If you get into your self-driving Tesla and don't enter a destination, the car will look at your calendar and take you to your assumed destination or home if nothing is on the calendar.
All of this means that if you order a new Tesla today, you could feasibly have a fully self-driving car, pending regulatory approval. Until then, you're getting a host of advanced Autopilot features that start rolling out this week.
A recent government report found that the first-generation Autopilot system has slashed crash rates for Tesla vehicles by 40%.
The report was released after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed its six-month investigation into Tesla Autopilot following the first known fatal crash while the system was activated. NHTSA is not issuing a recall and did not find a defect with the system.
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