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Due later this year, software update 7.0 will allow the Tesla Model S electric sedan to steer itself on the highway.

In a press call yesterday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk detailed software update 6.2, which will be delivered over-the-air to the Model S in the coming weeks. This update, as we’ve written about earlier, will add Trip Planner and Range Monitoring functions to the electric sedan, as well as blind spot monitoring, valet mode and automatic emergency braking.

Musk also used the call to tease us with some tidbits about the next major update to the Model S’ software, version 7.0, which is expected to roll out later this year.

The centrepiece of this update will be an auto-steering mode. The system, according to Musk, will only be available on highways.

As the CEO explained earlier this week at South by Southwest, the biggest problem for automakers working on autonomous vehicles is dealing with suburban streets. On these roads there are plenty of variables, such as non-existent lane markings, temporary or unforeseen closures, and plenty of unpredictable humans about.

The startup car maker is currently testing the auto steering function along the Seattle to San Francisco route. Musk says that the system is “technically capable of going from parking lot to parking lot, but we won’t be enabling that for users”.

Unlike systems from other automakers, the Tesla self steering system won’t require the driver to keep their hands on the wheel, but “there’s an expectation that the driver is paying attention; you’re not supposed to just turn it on and go to sleep”.

The update may also make it possible for owners to summon their cars via a smartphone app; the Model S would then pilot itself to its owner. Musk insists that this feature will “only work on private property, because it’s not legal”.

A “complete UI overhaul” will also be part of the update 7 package.




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