Elon Musk: Tesla autopilot features coming Thursday in software upgrade

October 11, 2015, 5:14 PM UTC
Tesla Model S sedan garage
The Tesla Model S sedan.
Courtesy of Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors, the electric automaker, plans to roll out its latest software upgrade—version 7, which includes autopilot features—worldwide to owners of its Model S sedan on Thursday.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk made the announcement via a tweet this weekend. He also answered some of his Twitter followers’ questions about the new software.

The new software has been available to a select group of Model S early testers for weeks and is expected to be widely available on Tesla’s (TSLA) new Model X sport-utility vehicle. The Model X began shipping in very limited volumes mere weeks ago.

The software’s autopilot features won’t turn the car into a completely driverless experience, but the update will include features that help steer the car on the highway and aid in parallel parking. Musk didn’t share details for all of the autopilot “upgrades” that would be offered with the software update.

Photograph by Justin Sullivan — Getty Images

Musk did say that the upgrade wouldn’t include all of the autopilot features that Tesla has demonstrated, such as enabling the car to completely park itself. A year ago, Tesla showed off a combination of current and future autopilot features at its launch of the Model S P85D, a high-performance, dual-motor version of the Model S.

Both the Model S and Model X have 12 sensors on the bottom of the vehicle, a front-facing camera next to the rear-view mirror, and a radar system under the nose. The sensors are key to the driverless experience. Some simply allow the vehicle to scan speed limit signs and notify the driver when the vehicle exceeds the speed limit. Others have a greater impact on the vehicle’s operation, such as automatically following lane lines and taking turns without the driver touching the wheel. Down the road, Tesla may debut features that are more self-driving than assisting, such as a “valet park mode” that can summon the car to arrive without a driver.

While the autopilot features are offered on all of Tesla’s cars, it costs an additional $2,500 to enable the autopilot functions.

Software 7 will give the large dashboard screen in Tesla cars “a new look,” Musk said via Twitter. A more significant user interface upgrade is expected in a future software update, software version 7.1. At 17 inches across, Tesla’s Model S and Model X have one of the largest dashboard screens available on the market.

Tesla’s ability to update software “over the air,” a.k.a. through wireless Internet connectivity, is a key part of its strategy to attract customers who shop with a focus on innovative new technologies. The automaker can add new features or fix problems without requiring the customer to visit a Tesla service center.

Musk said the software 7 update would take about five days to roll out to all of its customers worldwide.

To learn more about Tesla’s Model X, watch this Fortune video:

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