Tesla’s new Autopilot just got even smarter, faster, and even closer to realizing its self-driving potential.
The carmaker’s Autopilot system for HW2 enabled-vehicles is being released incrementally throughout the year via a series of over-the-air (OTA) software updates. The updates, which Tesla
overlord CEO Elon Musk promised would drop every two to six weeks, started rolling out at the end of January.
The latest update released today, 8.1, will give Tesla owners some new features to play with — and their cars even more autonomy with new upgrades to its lane control systems, Autosteer and Summon.
The update was teased last week in the midst of one of Musk’s tweet flurries in response to a Tesla fan’s request for more… cowbell.
Musk responded in kind.
Version 8.1 won’t give Tesla drivers more cowbell, technically — but it will boost their Autopilot’s brains and brawn. The cars’ Autosteer speed cap is now revved up from 55 mph to 80 mph (after a mandatory sensor recalibration, according to Electrek‘s sources). That feature keeps the car in its lane, even though Tesla requires drivers to at least keep their hands on the wheel.
The update will also give drivers enhanced lane departure warnings and a new Auto Lane Change feature, which enables the car to change lanes by itself when the driver flicks the turn signal with Autosteer engaged.
A Summon feature also comes with the new software, which allows Tesla owners to move their cars in and out of parking spaces with remote commands.
The new Autopilot has been approached cautiously after its first iteration faced international scrutiny and a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation after the first self-driving car fatality last year.
But the HW2 hardware kit is much more advanced than the previous generation. According to Tesla, its cars on the road right now have the capability for Level 5 autonomy (full on, hands-off self-driving) as soon as more data is collected and the software has been fully rolled out. Musk famously set a goal for a fully autonomous cross-country trip by the end of this year.
In the nearer term, we should start to see even more autonomous updates to Autopilot as the year wears on. In January, Musk (again on Twitter) promised the cars would take more control in three to six months.
We’ve gone past the three month mark. We’re excited to see where we’re at by the time we get to six.