The Tesla Model S won’t be the first truly autonomous car on the road, but it’s inching closer. It’s the first vehicle with Tesla‘s Autopilot system which, based on this video, looks both terrifying and awesome.
The software to unlock an initial round of Autopilot features has just been released as part of the Tesla Version 7.0 software update. Autopilot will eventually enable self-driving capability on the highway. For now, it allows Tesla models built from October 2014 onward to steer within a lane, change lanes and manage speed. Autopilot can also scan for empty parking spaces and parallel park on command.
How does this crazy self-driving thing work? The software uses the Model S’s large suite of sensors, a camera and radar, alongside a high-precision digitally-controlled electric assist braking system and GPS. Each car also sends real-time data back to Tesla, so Autopilot can continually learn and improve itself.
This isn’t full autonomy. The driver is still ultimately in control of (and responsible for) the car, and all drivers are advised to keep their hands on the wheel even in Autopilot mode. Tesla CEO Elon Musk says a fully autonomous vehicle is “less than three years” away.
We may not be living in the future quite yet, but even in its beta state, you have to admit: this car is a better driver than some of the humans you know.