Elon Musk: Self-driving Tesla Model S will be here in three months

The Model S will get a software update in about three months that will include some basic self-driving functions, including reading speed limit signs and making lane changes, according to Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk. 

Charles Krupa/AP/File
Tesla representative John Van Cleave, right, shows customers Sarah and Robert Reynolds, left, and Vince Giardina, a new Tesla Model S all electric car, at a Tesla showroom inside the Kenwood Towne Centre in Cincinnati.

There’s been a flurry of news concerning Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] and its compulsive Tweeting CEO Elon Musk these past couple of weeks, and it looks like the pace of news isn’t about to slow anytime soon. Today, we have details about new self-driving features coming to the Model S.

Last fall, Tesla announced an "Autopilot" feature that provided the Model S with some basic self-driving functions, such as being able to read speed signs and make lane changes. Eventually, the Autopilot will be enhanced via software updates to give the Model S self-driving capability on the highway from on-ramp to off-ramp, though there’s been no mention of a timeframe for this—until now.

According to Musk, who thinks fully autonomous cars may one day lead to actual driving being outlawed, a software update scheduled for release in about three months will enable the Model S to handle highways and major roads by itself. Speaking in a conference call, he said that the self-driving technology was technically capable of handling urban areas, though he said Tesla will disable the Autopilot in these situations, citing safety concerns.

"It is technically capable of going from parking lot to parking lot," Musk said. "But we won't be enabling that for users with this hardware suite, because we don't think it's likely to be safe in suburban neighborhoods." Issues he noted included a lack of posted speed limit signs and obstacles such as children playing on the road.

During the call, Musk also revealed that the Autopilot feature will allow a Model S to be summoned by the driver via smartphone or told to go park itself. That feature will be allowed only on private property for now, however.

These features will be offered through a firmware update version 7.0. In the coming weeks, Tesla will release firmware update 6.2 that aims to help deal with range anxiety in addition to offering improved accelerator and brake feel, a new 155 mph top speed for the Model S P85D, and some new safety features, like automatic emergency braking and blind-spot warning.

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