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Tesla's Model S will add self-driving 'autopilot' mode in three months

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Tesla's preparing a software update that will bring powerful auto-steering functionality to its Model S fleet. During today's press call — which mostly focused on curing range anxiety — CEO Elon Musk revealed that Tesla will ship a software update "in about three months" that will turn on auto-steering, or "autopilot" as Musk often refers to it. "We can basically go between San Francisco and Seattle without the driver doing anything," Musk said of the autonomous system that Tesla has developed. For now, you'll only be able to engage auto-steering on highways. We got a preview of the autopilot functionality during our initial test drive in the P85D, which you can watch below.

Elon doesn't want you to confuse autopilot with a self-driving car

"It is technically capable of going from parking lot to parking lot," said Musk. "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," he said, noting that such streets often lack posted speed limit signs and pose obstacles like children playing in the street. In the future, drivers will be able to summon an unmanned Model S to their location or direct the car to drive itself into a garage.

Musk noted that these features remain illegal on most US roads, so he cautioned that drivers will be restricted to using them on private property. He also made clear that autopilot isn't to be confused with a proper self-driving car. "There’s certainly an expectation that when autopilot on the Model S is enabled, that you’re paying attention. But it should also take care of you if you have moments of distraction."