Elon Musk has spoken a couple of times regarding Tesla’s ambitions to build autonomous cars, and new Model S owners are reporting the addition of the first driver assist features; a lane departure warning system, and a “speed assist” to keep you under the speed limit.
These features appear to be showing up on Model S sedans built since the Fremont factory went back online following a massive retooling. The lane departure warning is your standard keep-you-in-the-lines system that rumbles the steering wheel should you drift out of your lane without the turn signal on. The rumble was described by new Model S owner Martin Buehler as “kinda weak” and akin to running over rumble strips that line the breakdown lanes of many highways. If you’ll recall, Martin spruced up his garage in anticipation of the arrival of his Model S, which he has since taken delivery of. As an added bonus (or if you just want to make yourself jealous), check out his album of his new white Model S85.
The other system, called “speed assist”, will warn the driver when they exceed the posted speed limit, using its internal GPS to know the surrounding limitations on acceleration. The system can be set to display on the gauge cluster, make a chiming noise, or no noise at all (which would be my preferred setting). These systems appear to be standard on all Model S sedans made after September 18th, and parking assist will be offered as a standard feature as well in the near future.
While Tesla normally makes a big deal about such announcements, there hasn’t been any formal press release or blog posts. These features also appear to align with the rollout of Firmware 6.0, which added the ability to remotely start your car and avoid traffic via the navigation system, among other updates. A poster on the Tesla Motors Club forums added the below pictures detailing the official patch notes for these two new features.
Tesla owners have also noted that there seem to be additional sensors that aren’t yet in use, but could possibly be used for blind spot alert or adaptive cruise control systems that were uncovered in a hidden menu in the Model S last year. Unfortunately for current Model S owners, these systems aren’t able to be retrofitted, unlike the underbody battery shield all Teslas now come with.
Elon Musk wants self-driving Teslas in three or four years, and this seems to be the first step towards this vision of an all-electric, totally automated future.