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Tesla Model S will soon be able to drive across the U.S. without a driver

by Brandon Russell | January 11, 2016January 11, 2016 7:30 am PDT

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Tesla this weekend sent out a software update that tweaks the Model S’s autopilot functionality—it can stay in lanes with faded lines, and it now restricts people to five miles over the posted speed limit. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about.

As part of update V7.1, Tesla has also introduced a “summon” feature that gives Model S owners the ability to instruct their car to pull in and out of parking spots automatically.

There are already videos floating around on YouTube that demonstrate the new feature, and it’s quite impressive. In one video, user James Mejarus demonstrates what “summon” can do, showing the car exit his garage using nothing but the Model S’s key fob. And he’s not even in the dang car.

What’s really impressive about the feature is that the Model S can perform this trick even with a garage door in the way. If your Model S has a garage door opener connected via HomeLink, the car can autonomously open and close the door on its own, whether it’s parking or leaving the house.

If you think that’s cool, Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Sunday said that’s only the half of it. Following the software’s release, Musk said the automaker is going to improve the technology to the point where the Model S will be able to drive across any distance of land (like the U.S.) assuming there are no major obstacles in the way.

“If you’re in New York and the car’s in Los Angeles, you can summon your car to you from your phone and tell the car to find you, and it’ll automatically charge itself along the journey,” Musk said. The CEO added that he might be “slightly optimistic” about the feature’s capabilities, but “not significantly optimistic.” 

Um, wow. I can only imagine how people unaware of the feature will react to seeing a Model S driving down the road with no driver or passengers.

Summon, according to Musk, is still in beta, and he warned that it works best on flat driveways. Seeing how capable it is already, however, I’m pretty sure it’s better then most people at backing out of parking spots. With more machine learning, and improved sensors, the feature is going to get good enough to drive pretty much anywhere (within reason) without a driver so much as lifting a finger.

And that, my friends, is the future.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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