Tesla Cars models S and X are getting a big feature. Cars bought from September 2014 onwards will soon have “partial self-driving” capability. The entire update features some cosmetic changes to the dashboard, such as a new app for the 17-inch touchscreen, drivers can lock-unlock their cars from the status bar, and the clock interface has changed.
The biggest story though and the one that anyone cares about is the “Auto Pilot” feature. Now to be clear, this not a “Total Hands off steering wheel” feature. Instead just like autopilot in planes where the pilot is still in charge of landing & taking off, the autopilot in Tesla models will assist the drivers. Though Eion Musk CEO of Tesla stated in a press conference “We tell drivers to keep their hands on the wheel just in case, to exercise caution in the beginning, “Over time, long-term, you won’t have to keep your hands on the wheel—we explicitly describe this as beta.”. So the company aims to develop completely autonomous cars in the near future but what is so different about their feature as compared to partial autonomous driving capabilities offered by other brands such as Audi?. Well, the prime difference is that the fact that Tesla is shipping out their update over a software. Which means that previous Tesla owners will wake up and realize that their car can drive semi-autonomously now. Ricardo Reyes head of communications at Tesla states this difference “In other cars, all the systems work separately—there are different processors for different parts: the safety system here, the cruise control here, And that’s the evolution of building cars in stages, whereas our car has a central operating system, more like what your phone has.” While CEO Musk supports the idea when he stated “Carmakers need to think of their cars as connected devices, that the way a car should operate, like your cell phone or laptop so you can do improvements over the air,”.
The snapshot shows the new interface for Model S
So what does the feature actually do and how?. The autopilot feature is made possible by real-time feedback features and a suite of sensors—-a front-facing radar, a camera with image recognition capability, and 360-degree ultrasonic sonar—-to read lane lines and detect other vehicles. So naturally when you want to move a lane on the highway give the signal for desired direction and car moves automatically. The autopilot features shut off whenever you firmly grip the steering wheel. It is not that the steering wheel as capacitive touch but rather it monitors small differences in torque, so whenever you apply a force against it the system will know its being taken over. The system does not detect stop signs & signals yet, as it feasible only for a more predictable environment of a freeway or a highway.
Autonomous Cars are not that far away in the future. Big firms like Google, Tesla and Mercedes have all tested prototypes as all of them have shown progress. Until we have a completely hands-free experience of driving, we have to be content with semi-hands handsfree lane changing and assisted parking.