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Tesla Talks 'Auto-Pilot,' End to 'Range Anxiety'

March 20, 2015
Tesla Model S owners will soon get some new software upgrades, alleviating a major concern for electric car drivers, and potentially, eliminating the need to manually drive the vehicle completely.

Tesla (IW 500/384) Model S owners will soon get some new software upgrades, alleviating a major concern for electric car owners, and potentially, eliminating the need to drive altogether.

CEO Elon Musk said Software Version 6.2 will be ready in about three months, including what he called, “auto pilot.” When the function is live it will only be able to be used on highways, but Musk said, "We can basically go between San Francisco and Seattle without the driver doing anything."

Musk cautioned that the auto pilot feature is not the same thing as a self-driving car, "There’s certainly an expectation that when autopilot on the Model S is enabled, that you’re paying attention. But it should also take care of you if you have moments of distraction." For safety reasons, the feature can’t be used on suburban streets that in many cases lack speed limit signs and have more pedestrians. 

Another update will help EV owners overcome a common issue, “range anxiety,” or the fear that the battery will die before reaching the destination or another charging station. Speculation was there would be a range upgrade. We now know it’s a new trip planning feature enabling the user to plot their route around Tesla’s charging network. The car will be in constant communication with Tesla Superchargers to determine what’s available, occupied or potentially, out of order.

The system is so advanced, it takes into consideration elevation, wind speed and direction for pinpoint accuracy, “It’s basically impossible to run out [of electricity] unless you do so intentionally,” Musk said.

Also included in the upgrade is a new forward braking system proven to reduce accidents. A valet mode limiting much of the vehicle’s power. Tighter security to prevent the theft of personal information, and a cool new look for the operating system and improved functionality. The upgrades will be available for Tesla vehicles built since 2014.

Musk also gave a preview of Version 7.0 expected later this summer. It would advance the "auto pilot" feature and even let users summon their Tesla to their location.

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