Tesla is getting a long-awaited update on its Autopilot software — firmware that "will begin to enable full self-driving features." So tweeted CEO and co-founder Elon Musk on Sunday morning, who said that the next rollout of Autopilot, version 9, will be coming out in August.
While there were no other details in Musk's tweet — such as what specific features will be included — he pushed out the message in response to another Twitter user who posted about a problem with Autopilot not knowing what to do when lanes merge on the road.
Tesla's Autopilot is under scrutiny, most recently for a fatal accident in Mountain View, Calif. that involved a Tesla X speeding up just seconds before it crashed into a concrete barrier on Highway 101 on March 23. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report that found the car's Autopilot had been engaged by its driver, Wei Huang, and sped to 71 mph just three seconds before crashing.
While Autopilot is not considering a self-driving or autonomous tool, the mode does give some control to a Tesla car allowing it steer itself in certain conditions. Drivers, however, are expected to keep their hands on the steering wheel, and are even alerted, by the car's system, if they remove their hands.
That warning, however, has not deterred all drivers — including Huang, who NTSB reported did not have his hands on the steering wheel at certain points during his drive. One driver in the U.K. moved into the passenger seat of his Tesla S 60 — and lost his ability to drive for 18 months after police saw footage of him on the road.
While Musk's tweet alludes to "full self-driving features," he only says the new software will "begin to enable" this ability — not have it completely ready to launch. Tesla owners are likely to understand that fully autonomous driving is still not on the immediate horizon, particularly given the recent spate of news stories about Tesla's current Autopilot system.