What is it?
The latest software update for the Tesla Model S features the company’s Autopilot technology. While it’s some way from being the autonomous car promised by the futurists, it takes great strides towards making driving in heavy traffic much less of a chore.
A £2100 option, the system introduces ‘traffic aware cruise control’ (Tesla’s version of the familiar radar cruise), automatic parallel parking, side collision avoidance and automatic lane changing.
Model S cars that were built in the past 12 months or so are already fitted with the sensors needed for the autopilot feature. These include ultrasonic sensors (which give the car’s brain a 360-degree view of its immediate surroundings) and forward-facing radar sensors. The car also has a forward-facing camera.
Autopilot uses these sensors in combination with GPS-driven satellite navigation and ‘high precision digital maps’ to give the car a pretty comprehensive idea of where it is, where other cars are, where the road is heading and how close it might be to the central reservation on the motorway.
The 7.0 update also features redesigned screen graphics in the main instrument binnacle, giving the option of a display that’s dominated by a rendering of the car sitting in a single lane. When the car’s forward-facing camera detects white lines (constant or broken) the graphic shows these as defined edges on the virtual road. This is a good indication that the Model S’s autopilot system is confident enough to engage.