He promised it was coming soon, and it looks like Elon Musk has kept his word: Tesla’s first ‘full self-driving’ software has begun its initial roll-out to customers.
Tesla sent the beta software out this week to a small select group of customers enrolled in the Tesla Early Access Program. The update to the Autopilot system will enable drivers to navigate city streets and highways in ‘self-driving’ mode, although users are still required to keep their hands on the steering wheel and monitor the vehicle’s movements.
Tesla’s software already allows its vehicles to recommend lane changes and slow at traffic lights or stop signs, and while details of what the Full Self-Driving beta offers as far as new features are concerned are still a bit sketchy, it’s likely to be an early version of what Musk has previously referred to as ‘Full Self-Driving feature complete’ system that will allow drivers to make entire journeys using Autopilot.
— Tesla Owners Silicon Valley (@teslaownersSV) October 22, 2020
In a letter to investors, Tesla explained:
[The Autopilot team] has been focused on a fundamental architectural rewrite of our neural networks and control algorithms. This rewrite will allow the remaining driving features to be released
In a tweet on Tuesday evening, Musk announced the launch, but downplayed expectations, saying it ‘will be extremely slow & cautious, as it should’.
Crucially, drivers are still liable for any accidents or damage caused while Autopilot is enabled – Tesla vehicles using the mode have been involved in a number of fatal crashes.
The launch comes as Tesla reported record sales over the past three months. In a call with investors on Wednesday, Musk spoke of the importance of Tesla’s high sales for the wider development of autonomous driving technology.
…a million cars that are providing feedback, and specifically feedback on strange corner case situations that you just can’t even come up with in simulation — this is a thing that is really valuable
Improvements to Tesla’s self-driving technology is based on data received from its existing fleet of some 930,000 vehicles, which is used to train the artificial intelligence systems used in self-driving technology.
That kind of software doesn’t come for free, though. Following the beta launch, Musk tweeted early on Thursday that the price of its full self-driving software would be hiked by $2,000 from next week. The new price of $10,000 will apply to new and existing customers in the US.
Tesla’s CEO has previously said that the final version of the software was an ‘investment in the future’ that would eventually cost more than $100,000.
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