Tesla cars inch closer to their self-driving future with a big update to Autopilot

Tesla’s electric cars keep getting better and better with software updates.

Image: AFP/Getty Images

The best thing about Tesla cars isn’t just that they’re zero-emission vehicles that are better for our planet’s health; it’s also that they’re kinda like smartphones. With a software update, they get new features that make them even better than they were at purchase.

Elon Musk took to Twitter on Friday night to announce “Navigate on Autopilot” would see “wide release in North America tonight.” 

Available in “Software Version 9.0,” the update brings the ability for Teslas to automatically steer from on-ramp and off-ramp, change lanes, take exits, and navigate highway interchanges. For the full details on the new Autopilot features, check out Tesla’s blog post on the announcement.

A Tesla spokesperson confirmed to Mashable “Navigate on Autopilot” has started rolling out to customers, but it could take up to several weeks before all Tesla cars get it (as is standard for Tesla software updates).

It’s a significant update to the existing “Enhanced Autopilot” features available to Tesla drivers and while it’s not complete autonomous-driving yet (you will still need to keep your hands on the wheel), it’s another step closer to the self-driving future promised by so many sci-fi shows.

That said, any advertised self-driving technologies or assisted-driving features aren’t 100 percent foolproof. Reports of Teslas crashing while Autopilot’s been engaged seem to make headlines every couple of months. 

It’s important for Tesla owners to understand that while their cars have an array of sophisticated cameras and sensors to identify what’s happening nearby and then take action, it’s still very early days for this kind of vehicle autonomy. Learn the rules and know how Autopilot really works. And on top of everything else, always pay attention to what’s happening on the road, even if you’re using Autopilot.

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