In context: Tesla’s Autopilot has been under the spotlight recently for all the wrong reasons, but the company has just announced that it will soon improve the system’s autonomous abilities. Elon Musk said that Autopilot version 9 should arrive this August, and with it will come the first “self-driving features.”
In a tweet posted Sunday, the CEO confirmed version 9 and said that previous versions of Autopilot have “rightly focused entirely on safety," but now it appears that the emphasis will be on refining and adding to the self-driving capabilities, which will eventually lead to a fully autonomous system.
That issue is better in latest Autopilot software rolling out now & fully fixed in August update as part of our long-awaited Tesla Version 9. To date, Autopilot resources have rightly focused entirely on safety. With V9, we will begin to enable full self-driving features.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 10 June 2018
Precisely what changes we’ll see in version 9 is still unclear. In his reply to another user, Musk said it would include a fix for situations where two lanes merge in rush hour traffic.
Tesla repeatedly tells drivers to keep their hands on the wheel while Autopilot is engaged—the car warns anyone who doesn’t, disabling the feature and even stopping the vehicle should the alerts be ignored. It’s unlikely that version 9 will make the cars completely autonomous—at least not yet—but it could allow for better self-driving capabilities in certain situations.
2018 hasn’t been the best year for Tesla. A Model X crashed into a highway divider while in Autopilot mode in March, killing driver Walter Huang, and a Model S that also had the feature enabled hit a parked police SUV last month. The company has been dealing with production issues, NHTSA and NTSB investigations, lawsuits, and the (temporary) failure to receive Consumer Reports' recommendation. But at least we know the Model 3 has an amazing battery.