Tesla chose to equip the Model S, which was first released in 2012, with its Autopilot system. Since October 2014, Tesla began fitting its Model S cars with hardware — radar, camera, ultrasonic sensors and a digitally-controlled brake system — that will be better used with the incremental updates for the software, which will facilitate navigation.
The add-ons also work together with the car's exisiting hardware, such as the GPS, which also plays a big role in terms of navigation. Many have noted that the self-driving technology is a step towards the future.
In a blog post on Oct. 14, Tesla claimed that being driven by an AI "relieves drivers of the most tedious and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel."
"We're building Autopilot to give you more confidence behind the wheel, increase your safety on the road, and make highway driving more enjoyable," said Tesla while noting that truly driverless cars are still years away.
The company admits that at its present state, its "Autopilot" is akin to that of planes, which pilots use during optimal conditions. Moreover, Tesla says the responsibility of driving the car to get from point A to B is still under the driver's control. Using the sizable display, Tesla makes sure that drivers can see exactly what information influences the AI's decisions and actions.
Jalopnik's Michael Ballaban, who had a 20-minute ride on the AI-driven Model S, notes that although the current system functions more like a refined cruise control than an autonomous system, the execution is close to perfect.
"Autopilot, if it isn't a full autonomous system, is simple enough in execution," writes Ballaban. "It won't drive you to your ultimate destination, it won't make navigational turns without your input, and it doesn't know what the traffic light or the sign in front of you says."
Claudia Assis of Market Watch was also taken for a spin by the "semiautonomous" Model S. She remarks how easy it is to start the Autopilot system but also describes how unnatural it feels. .
"Part of my brain was yelling "what are you doing?? Get back on the wheel," Assis exclaims.
Even through her panic, however, the Market Watch respondent still manages to observe some key functions and things that the Autopilot was supposed to do but didn't.
"The car recognizes speed limit and other signs, but not red lights or stop signs," she says.
Nonetheless, Asis is pleased with how easy parallel parking is with the help of Autopark, which is one of Autopilot's main features. Asis was told to walk away from the car so it can automatically turn off.
With the release of the software's version 7.0, Tesla promises to develop new capabilities for the Autopilot system, which will all be delivered as updates to Model S owners who have the hardware to use the new software.