Elon Musk hinted last week that the long-awaited and debatably delayed Autopilot feature is “coming soon.” During today’s call to discuss Tesla’s second quarter earnings, the topic came up again, and Musk seems to be hedging the roll-out with promises of a “public beta”, because that’s exactly the kind of thing you want to give to end users unfinished.
In a move that speaks more to Tesla’s software-focused abilities, Musk said that the automaker is planning an “early access” program for would-be early adopters to test out the Model S’ newfound abilities. Those abilities include hands-free driving on the freeway, using a camera system to keep track of the lanes, and the (questionable) ability to safely perform lane changes on its own.
Other automakers offer something similar, but primarily for low-speed situations. And no one has launched a lane-change feature – possibly for good reason.
Musk’s response to an analyst’s question about how the system would work on the road – particularly the hand-off from driver to robocar and vise versa – was met with Musk’s suggestion that it will give some drivers the ability to test the system to figure those issues out. Although Tesla doesn’t exactly have the best history with beta programs and carefully selected users.