Over the weekend, Tesla owners were prompted to download a surprise software update, labeled Tesla v7.1. The most notable feature included in the over-the-air update was the ability for owners to "summon" their vehicles in and out of garages while standing outside their car. But this is apparently only the first aspect of Tesla Summon -- a "baby step" compared to what's to come for the feature, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Other updates include automatic speed adjustments for specific situations when using traffic-aware cruise control, automatic opening and closing of garage doors, vehicle lock improvements, Supercharger site availability and trip planning improvements, improved windshield-wiping logic, and more.
Summon a Tesla across the country?
But the most notable takeaway this weekend wasn't the specific updates included in the software update -- though the robustness of the update is yet another reminder of the advantage of the company's deep integration of hardware and software. The most surprising element of Tesla's announcement this weekend was Musk's reference to this first aspect of Tesla Summon as only a "baby step."
The future for Tesla Summon, according to Musk, basically ushers in an era of self-driving cars. In about two years, Summon should work in any landlocked region not blocked by borders, Musk said in a question-and-answer session with press on Sunday morning.
"Eventually, your Tesla will be able to drive anywhere across the country to meet you, charging itself along the way," the company explained in a blog post about Tesla Summon. "It will synch with your calendar to know exactly when to arrive."
Notably, Musk did say that Tesla would need more sensors built into the vehicle in order to achieve the company's goal of a self-driving car traveling across the country in about two years. The sensors would give Tesla vehicles "more redundancy" and make a human driver as a "plan B" no longer necessary, he explained.
Musk also said Tesla is working on a next-generation hardware suite of autopilot hardware, but he didn't comment any further on its timeline for a rollout. Further, he wasn't clear on whether these sensors would be retrofitted to current cars, or only to future Tesla vehicles.
Tesla vehicles can already automatically navigate highways.
The CEO did say he believes achieving full autonomy in two years is probably "slightly optimistic." For a more realistic range, he said it could happen in 24 to 36 months. And this autonomy would not just match human capability, but exceed it, he noted.
This bold prediction from Tesla follows Musk's recent forecast for the company to achieve "complete autonomy in approximately two years."
Tesla's increasingly frequent references to a timeline of about two years for achieving autonomous driving is intriguing. Tesla is planning to launch its lower-cost Model 3 in about two years, and the electric-car maker has recently confirmed that its timeline for the vehicle is on track. It's possible, therefore, that Tesla is planning on including its next-generation autopilot hardware and software in the Model 3. This would enable the company to market the new vehicle as capable of autonomous driving.
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The article Elon Musk: The First "Summon" Feature Is Just a "Baby Step" originally appeared on Fool.com.
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