Tesla's autopilot technology's about to get even better

Tesla’s evolving autopilot technology is close to getting a key update.

Right now, the feature makes Model S cars semi-autonomous. Autopilot-equipped models can detect vehicles and obstacles ahead, read speed limit signs and detect pedestrians.

There’s also the 360-degree ultrasonic sonar, which monitors the electric car’s periphery, and allows it to make its own lane changes when you hit the turn signal.

The technology has been a work in progress since it was first introduced in the Model S last fall.

At the time, CEO Elon Musk promised development would continue, and that more features would come later. Early Friday morning, he made good on that promise in a tweet:

That autosteer feature will let drivers travel distances on highways “without touching any controls at all,” Musk said earlier this year. In a second tweet overnight, he warned there’s at least one more wrinkle to sort out first:

“Final corner case,” Musk says, “is dealing with low contrast lane markings (faded white on grey concrete) while driving into the sun at dusk.” Other cars with lane-keeping technology have the same problem. The car can’t stay in its own lane if it can’t determine where the lane is.

In its current state, Tesla’s autopilot may not be quite as advanced as Mercedes-Benz’ “Intelligent Drive” — which can navigate equipped models through stop-and-go traffic. Intelligent Drive also lays the groundwork for 100% self-driving cars — something Tesla says it’s not ready to explore.

Google is also many years into the development of its own self-driving cars, which have racked up hundreds of thousands of miles in testing on the open road

Tesla factoryAP Photo/Jeff Chiu, FileIn this May 14, 2015, file photo, Tesla Model S cars are shown in the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. Tesla’s second-quarter deliveries surged 52 per cent to set a company record exceeding 11,000 vehicles, the electric car maker said Thursday, July 2, 2015.

But, Tesla has a special advantage. Aside from being an electric car company, and a battery company, it’s a self-contained R&D lab, with a fleet of tens of thousands of beta-testers (current owners) who love their cars and want to help improve them.

Yes, Tesla’s autopilot development has been a slow burn of sorts, but it’s bound to evolve, and do so at a steady pace — with the added benefit of remotely deploying those improvements en masse.

Business Insider has reached out to Tesla to learn when the newest autopilot features will be available. We’ll update this post when we hear back.

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