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Tesla’s Model S will soon drive itself across country

Updated software introduces new ‘Summon’ feature and Autopilot that’s ‘better than a human’

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Elon Musk has announced a new feature for the Tesla Model S that will allow you to ‘summon’ it to and from a parking spot, meaning it’ll drive itself in and out of the garage. Good news then, if you really hate parking.

And if you hate driving across country? Even better news. “Eventually, your Tesla will be able to drive anywhere across the country to meet you, charging itself along the way,” the company announced.

Yep, welcome to the future of autonomous driving, Internet. Admittedly – and as Elon Musk mentioned at last October’s software update, which you can read all about here – this stage is still at least two years away, “but not much more than that”.

Musk himself tweeted today: “In 2 years, summon should work anywhere connected by land & not blocked by borders, eg you’re in LA and the car is in NY”.

Today’s software patch announcement then, version 7.1, follows on from last October’s 7.0 Autopilot update for all Model S models equipped with the relevant hardware.

Dubbed ‘Summon’, it means when you arrive at your place of residence in the Model S or X, you simply hop out, prompt the Tesla to open your garage door, park itself inside and shut down. 

Then, when you wake in the morning, you ‘summon’ your car with your phone, and it’ll emerge automatically from the garage (assuming your garage door is connected to ‘HomeLink’) wearing a big smiley face, onto your driveway.

What else is new? The actual autonomous driving bits of the S and X have been improved too, with Musk announcing that it’s now “better than humans at highway driving”.

Autosteer keeps the car in its current lane when passing exits, and has been improved to work better when the road markings aren’t as clear as they should be. Though, it is restricted on residential roads without a central divider – here, the S’s speed is capped to the road limit, irrespective of the cruise control setting.

There’s more. The real-time display has been improved (to display multiple vehicles around the front of the Model S), there are fewer manual adjustments while using the ‘traffic-aware’ cruise control setting, and other convenience features (trip planning improvements, locking, and Spotify).

“The release of Tesla Version 7.1 software is the next step toward developing fully autonomous driving capabilities and delivering them through over-the-air software updates,” says the company, “keeping our customers at the forefront of driving technology in the years ahead.”

There are many hurdles yet to cross to get to the fully autonomous, cross-country ‘summon’ feature. Musk himself admitted as much last year, noting how “the software is not at a point where the driver can abdicate responsibility”.

But we’re getting closer. Let us know your thoughts below.

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