Tesla’s cars can now drive themselves, well, sort of. Thursday, the pioneering automaker released a beta software update that includes a few new autopilot features. It’ll be released to the owners of every Tesla, sold within the last year, throughout the week.
Here’s what it does. It allows the car to automatically steer within lanes, manage cruise-control speed and also change lanes after the driver taps the turning signal. The same sensor suite is used to help avoid collisions from the front and sides. It can also scan for a parking space, alert you when one is available, and parallel park on command.
To do all this, Tesla uses real-time feedback features from a suite of sensors which includes a front-facing radar, a camera with image recognition capability, and 360-degree ultrasonic sonar. Together this technology does things like read lane lines and detects other vehicles.
While you could take your hands entirely off the wheel, it’s not advised. In fact, if you take your hands off the wheel, you’ll get a message after a few seconds asking you to touch the wheel in some capacity. (Note that in New York, you’re legally required to have one hand on the wheel.)
“We tell drivers to keep their hands on the wheel just in case, to exercise caution in the beginning,” Elon Musk said Thursday at a press event. “Over time, long term, you won’t have to keep your hands on the wheel—we explicitly describe this as beta.”
One other note, the self-driving mode won’t work everywhere you go. It’s for highway and freeway driving, meaning you have to be going at least 18 mph for it to work. It also automatically shuts off when you grab the wheel.
The release of Tesla Version 7.0 software is the next step for Tesla Autopilot.