Seems that Elon Musk is getting in on the self-driving car game with his Tesla car line. A post on TechCrunch reports that the forthcoming update to the Tesla operating system—specifically Version 7.0—will bring a whole host of new features to the Tesla Model S, including “autopilot.” Yowza.
While not as robust as the self-driving capabilities Google’s been working on, the new autopilot features still sounds pretty fantastic. Here’s what Musk said about the upcoming feature at a press conference on Thursday:
“We’re pretty excited about the progress we’re making there. The main test route that we’re evaluating is the San Francisco to Seattle route, and we’re now almost able to travel all the way from San Francisco to Seattle without the driver touching any controls at all.
That’s a feature that requires a lot of validation testing, but we’re hoping that we can start releasing the first sort of auto-steering features in about three months or so.”
The devil is in the details, however. Autopilot will only work on highways, so don’t imagine being able to set it and forget it on your way to and from the grocery store. However, being able to turn on autopilot for a long highway stretch does sound extremely promising.
That said, if autopilot will actually give drivers the ability to lean back and relax while the computer takes over on the highway, it will put a whole lot of interesting technology to the test. Google has been pretty cautious about predicting when it’ll make its autonomous vehicles available to the public. Meanwhile, lawmakers have been wrestling with thorny issues like liability in the case of an accident. I imagine that Tesla feels confident enough in its technology that it’s not worried about potential traffic hazards and collisions. But even with that confidence, something is bound to go wrong. Tesla’s Model S may provide the first test cases on what happens if autonomous cars don’t do all they say they’ll do.
Ideally, we’ll never know what happens in a courtroom as a result of a faulty autonomous car. But because we have to deal with reality eventually, let’s just hope that day is as far off as possible.