Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company will start rolling out “breakthrough” features to its semi-autonomous Autopilot software in around four weeks during the company’s second-quarter earnings call on Wednesday.
Musk said some customers would begin receiving the update in around four weeks and all Tesla customers who purchased Autopilot would receive the update in September. Musk said the update would “certainly include some significant advancements in autonomy.”
Stuart Bowers, Tesla’s vice president of engineering, said the update would allow Tesla vehicles to “automatically attempt to change lanes” and suggested it could help drivers transition to and from highways. Bowers called the update, “our on-ramp to off-ramp solution that’s going to automatically attempt to change lanes, understand what lane the car is in, understand the route the user wants to travel, and take that route for the user and ultimately hand back control to user.”
During Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting in June, Musk alluded to the update and said it would include, “full, self-driving features,” and indicated the update would allow Tesla vehicles to perform better in areas where lanes merge on highways.
Tesla’s website describes upcoming features — including the ability for a vehicle to change lanes without driver input, move from one freeway to another, and exit a freeway near the driver’s destination — that are not available in Autopilot’s current iteration.
In its current iteration, Autopilot can keep a car in its lane and adjust its speed based on surrounding traffic, among other features. Recent accidents involving the feature have raised questions about whether drivers place too much trust in it and fail to pay attention to the road. Tesla has repeatedly said Autopilot is meant to be used with an attentive driver whose hands are on the wheel, but the most visible accidents involving Autopilot have included reports of distracted drivers .
Tesla has received criticism for how it has promoted the feature. In May, Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Auto Safety sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to investigate the strategies the company has used to sell Autopilot.
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