What just happened? Tesla is ringing in the holidays with an incredibly meaty software update for its vehicles. The update has been in the works for some time now, but it's finally out now. It brings an early look at Tesla's full self-driving (FSD) tech, the new and improved "Camping Mode," and various "smart" features.
Let's start by digging a little deeper into the FSD preview, as it's simultaneously the most exciting and disappointing part of this update. For those who don't know, Tesla's existing set of "Autopilot" features include support for things like automatic lane switching on highways, parking (perpendicular or parallel), braking, exit detection, and steering.
For some time now, the company's website has promised two other long-awaited key features: the ability for Tesla cars to "recognize and respond to" traffic lights and stop signs, as well as automatic driving on city streets. With today's update, your Tesla can finally detect these objects -- which you can verify by toggling on the FSD visualization preview in your Autopilot settings -- but it will not react to them yet.
Consider this preview as less of a functional change, and more a way for Tesla to prove that it is indeed making progress towards FSD tech in its cars. Tesla's website still promises that FSD options, including automated city street driving and stopping, are arriving this year. However, given that January is just under a week away and this is the only progress users have seen so far, those statements will probably be modified soon.
At any rate, a somewhat-mediocre FSD preview is far from the only feature arriving with today's holiday update. Other improvements include a completely "rebuilt" voice command system which can now understand "natural language" (such as "Open the glovebox," "Let's go to work," or "Call David Lewis"), the ability for Tesla cars to read text messages aloud (you can also respond to them with your voice), and Camp Mode.
Camp Mode is nothing too special by itself, but it can automate several things at once. For example, with one toggle, it can regulate your car's airflow, temperature, lighting, and music playback, which lets you kick back and relax (or even sleep) in your car with minimal effort.
Tesla's latest update is also bringing two new games -- the fantastic pixel-art farming sim Stardew Valley and Backgammon, specifically -- and "TRAX," which is effectively an in-car music production suite. Of course, you can only access TRAX and these new games while your vehicle is in park (sorry, passengers).