This week, Tesla rolled its new Version 7.0 software. A major part of the company’s latest update is the introduction of the long-awaited Autopilot feature, which enables some Tesla cars to operate autonomously under certain conditions. Tesla car’s received the new software via an over-the-air update.
“The release of Tesla Version 7.0 software is the next step for Tesla Autopilot,” the company said on its blog. “We will continue to develop new capabilities and deliver them through over-the-air software updates, keeping our customers at the forefront of driving technology in the years ahead.”
We took an Autopilot equipped Tesla Model S P90D with Ludicrous Mode for a spin along Manhattan’s West Side Highway. Here’s how it went.
When 'Ludicrous Mode' -- 0-60 mph in a claimed 2.8 seconds -- was introduced earlier this year, Tesla was kind enough to let us try out the all-new P90D version of the car. (See the underline on 'P90D?' That means it's LUDICROUS!)
The P90D was our electric chariot for a glorious day of driving around the congested byways of New York City and the sprawling highways of New Jersey. But notice that our hands were firmly on the wheel.
We headed back over to Tesla's Manhattan store to see what had happened. Literally overnight, the P90D had been equipped with the Version 7.0 update to its software.
And that meant that the Autopilot self-driving feature was activated on cars that were able to use it.
Autopilot works by using a series of 12 ultrasonic sensors, several cameras, a forward looking radar, and GPS tracking to position the car relative to the other on-road traffic. The car can almost literally read the road!
When available for use, the driver can activate Autopilot by pulling back twice on the cruise control stalk, located on the steering column.
Autopilot has two parts. First, there's a smart cruise control that manages speed and distance between the Tesla and other cars on the road. Second is an auto-steering and auto lane-change function. When active, both show up as blue symbols on either side of the speedometer. One symbol denotes cruise control; the other symbol tells you when you can ...
... OK, before we get to that, some technical detail. In addition to accelerating, stopping, and changing lanes, Autopilot can also help avoid side collisions. It can also automatically parallel park the car.
To sample Autopilot, we met up with a Tesla spokesperson and took a lovely drive up the Hudson River on the West Side of Manhattan. Just look at that gorgeous concrete barrier!
It felt incredibly bizarre to be in the driver's seat with my hands in my lap and my feet off the pedals.
With autopilot engaged, you can flick the turn signal and the car will automatically move into the neighbouring lane.
But Autopilot is not a truly autonomous system. You can't 'set it and forget it' and text your friends or surf the web. And Tesla strongly objects to anyone who thinks they can do that.
You still have to pay attention while driving. This is assisted driving -- not even close to full-on autonomy.
In fact, the car will send out an alert if it doesn't sense driver contact with the steering wheel for an extended period of time. Gentle pressure is all that's required.
After Autopilot, we really can't wait to see what Tesla comes up with next for the P90D we thought we knew so well. The Model S has been continuously improved since its introduction. And it's pretty cool that you can go to sleep and wake up to find a car that's been significantly upgraded.
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