Some Tesla owners in North America will wake up to a new driver assistance feature that had been delayed for testing, according to a tweet sent Friday evening by CEO Elon Musk.
“Tesla Autopilot Drive on Navigation going to wide release in North America tonight,” Musk tweeted. Tesla Autopilot Drive on Navigation is described by the company as its most advanced driver assistance feature to date. The feature, which is typically referred to as Navigate on Autopilot, was held back earlier this month when the automaker released the latest version of its in-car software, 9.0.
A blog posted by Tesla later in the evening said the feature would begin to roll out this week to U.S. customers who have purchased enhanced Autopilot or full self-driving capability. Tesla has offered enhanced Autopilot and FSD capability as upgrades that cost, $5,000 and $3,000, respectively.
Tesla’s vehicles are not self-driving. Autopilot is an advanced driver assistance system. But back in October 2016, when Tesla started producing Hardware 2 vehicles equipped with a more robust suite of sensors, it also started taking money from customers for FSD, which would become available if and when the technical challenges were conquered and regulatory approvals were met. Tesla removed the option to upgrade to FSD from its website, although Musk has said customers can still request it.
Navigate on Autopilot is considered a step towards that still on-met full self-driving promise; albeit it’s a small one.
Tesla’s 9.0 software, which was released in early October, delivered a host of improvements, including a new dash cam feature (for cars built after August 2017), improved navigation and even Atari games that can be played when parked. But Navigate on Autopilot was held back. It was later introduced as a beta feature to some customers in the U.S.
Navigate on Autopilot is an active guidance feature of the company’s Enhanced Autopilot system that is supposed to guide a car from a highway on-ramp to off-ramp, including navigating interchanges and making lane changes. Once the driver enters a destination into the navigation, they can enable “Navigate on Autopilot” for that trip.
Tesla has placed some limitations on Navigate on Autopilot. For now, the feature makes a lane change suggestion that requires the driver to confirm by tapping the turn signal before it will proceed.
Future versions of Navigate on Autopilot will allow customers to waive the confirmation requirement if they choose to, according to a blog posted by Tesla late Friday evening.
In Musk’s view, the feature will require confirmation until safety “looks good after 10M miles of driving, or so.”
Navigate on Autopilot will make suggestions for two different kinds of lane changes: route-based lane changes that allow the driver to stick with the navigation route, and speed-based lane changes, which are designed to keep the vehicle moving as close to the driver’s set speed as possible.
The speed-based lane changes have four settings, including disabled, mild, average, or Mad Max. This will suggest transitions into other lanes that are moving faster if, for example, the driver approaches a slow-moving car or truck ahead. The “mild” setting suggests lane changes when the driver is traveling significantly slower than the set speed. Mad Max will suggest lane changes when traveling just below the driver’s set speed.