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Tesla heads down autonomous path

Autopilot engaged: The instrument cluster on the Model S shows the real-time information that the car uses to determine its driving behaviour.

New software update for Tesla Model S activates inbuilt autonomous mode – to a point

Tesla logo19 Oct 2015

TESLA’S innovative electric Model S has taken the next step to a self-driving future, with the activation of its inbuilt autonomous driving functionality.

The software update – known as 7.0 – activates a number of features as part of Tesla's Autopilot system including automatic steering, traffic-aware cruise control, lane changing, collision warnings and automatic parking.

Tesla's latest upgrade, which can be sent wirelessly to the car, is made possible via a series of cameras, radar, ultrasonic sensors and data onboard the Model S that allows the car to accurately drive through traffic.

The first level of the Autopilot driving system to be activated is called Autosteer, which is still in the beta stage of testing. Tesla Australia marketing and communications manager Heath Walker explained that this means it is ready for customer use, but will continue being updated and perfected over time.

Autosteer keeps the car in its current lane, engaging Tesla's Traffic-Aware Cruise Control system to automatically adjust speed, steering rate and steering angle to suit the road and traffic conditions.

The Autosteer system is not fully autonomous, however regulations currently require a driver to have their hands on the steering wheel for the system to be operational.

Tesla's announcement comes hot on the heels of a similar release from Volvo, which recently previewed its own IntelliSafe fully autonomous driving system, which allows its vehicles to be driven hands-free.

Volvo expects the IntelliSafe system to eventually be rolled out across its entire range, starting in 2017.

Mr Walker said that Tesla founder Elon Musk hoped that Tesla's self-driving system would also be fully autonomous in two years.

Tesla's system features an automatic lane-change function, which is activated by turning on your indicator. After that, the car does the rest.

The system also alerts the driver when it detects that a car is getting too close to the side of the Model S. When this happens, the instrument panel indicates where the danger is coming from, and leaves the driver to react.

The update also introduces completely automated parking, which alerts the driver to an appropriate spot and once activated, the car will proceed to park itself.

All information from the autonomous driving system is displayed through the instrument panel, giving the driver live updates on the processes and decisions that the car is making on the road.

The updates officially went live in Australia on October 16.

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