Tesla’s Autopilot autonomous driving software will soon have “full self-driving features” according to CEO Elon Musk.
Currently, Tesla’s Autopilot is a highly capable autonomous driving suite that allows the car to handle many driving situations completely on its own. Tesla maintains that the software is still not a truly autonomous driving suite and that the driver still needs to have both hands on the wheel, as it were, and maintain full readiness to take control of the car should the need arise.
However, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Monday that a new software update scheduled for August would expand Autopilot’s self-driving features, raising the possibility that Tesla will arrive first to market with a truly autonomous car.
"To date, Autopilot resources have rightly focused entirely on safety,” Musk wrote. “With V9, we will begin to enable full self-driving features."
That issue is better in latest Autopilot software rolling out now & fully fixed in August update as part of our long-awaited Tesla Version 9. To date, Autopilot resources have rightly focused entirely on safety. With V9, we will begin to enable full self-driving features.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 10, 2018
Musk’s tweet was in response to a fellow user complaining that Autopilot currently has issues with merging on a crowded highway. Musk promised that particular issue, as well as many others, will be eliminated in the August update.
It’s still unknown just how far Tesla will go in terms of self-driving capability. The holy grail of autonomous driving would be Level 5 autonomy, which would remove any requirement for human interaction, and indeed also remove any method of human control. Level 4 autonomy would essentially still allow for a human to take control of the vehicle, but the car itself would be fully capable of driving itself in all situations.
If Tesla has reached Level 4 autonomy, it would be a major breakthrough in the race for self-driving car technology.
A series of recent accidents has put Tesla’s Autopilot under increased regulatory scrutiny as more drivers blame the software for accidents. A recent accident saw a Model X increase speed before crashing into a highway median divider, killing the driver. More accidents have also been reported where the Autopilot failed to see a parked vehicle, leading to a collision.
Tesla’s website currently doesn’t provide a specific timeline on when "full self-driving capability," will be available as it is highly dependant on local regulatory approval.