An update to Tesla‘s Autopilot software coming in August will enable “full self-driving features” for the automaker’s electric cars, chief executive Elon Musk says.
The news comes from Musk’s Twitter, in which he also casually suggested that the electric car company will offer a package of rocket thrusters for the next Roadster. Musk’s comments come amid a race by automakers and tech firms to roll out fully autonomous vehicles but also rising concerns about the safety of robotic systems.
“With V9, we will begin to enable full self-driving features,” the Tesla executive said in a Tweet early Sunday, telling users that a lane-merge issue had been fixed and will roll out with other updates in August.
Tesla released a Full Self Driving Package in the fall of 2016 as an add-on to Autopilot. Until now, it hasn’t been available for use — the equivalent of paying $3,000 USD more for your car to say it might be able to do this one thing some day. Many Teslas are billed as being fully self-driving capable, when the technology is ready, which it isn’t yet.
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
All Tesla vehicles are already equipped with the hardware to give them full self-driving capabilities, such as cameras and sensors, however the current software means they are only semi-autonomous. According to the electric car maker’s website, full self-driving capability delivers a safety level “substantially greater” than that of a human driver.
It is not clear exactly what Musk means by “full self-driving features” as it seems unlikely that Tesla’s cars can suddenly be transformed into fully autonomous vehicles, where drivers will be free to take their hands off the wheel, check their phones, etc.
Tesla repeatedly tells drivers to keep their hands on the wheel while Autopilot is engaged — the car warns anyone who doesn’t, disabling the feature and even stopping the vehicle should the alerts be ignored. It’s unlikely that version 9 will make the cars completely autonomous — at least not yet — but it could allow for better self-driving capabilities in certain situations.