Today, Tesla is taking a step closer to a true self-driving car future with a mode that entirely lets your car decide when to change lanes. (Yes, we’ve just entered a world where your car might pass other cars automatically.)
Previously, if you punch in your destination, keep your hands on the steering wheel and feet near the pedals, your Tesla’s optional “Navigate on Autopilot” mode would do its best to keep you on the freeway, proactively asking for confirmation before it makes any lane changes. But a new software update changes that. If the driver says they don’t require the car to confirm a lane change, the car will… just change lanes.
Here’s how Tesla’s new press release describes the change (bolding ours):
In the Autopilot settings menu, a driver can press the Customize Navigate on Autopilot button which will now display three additional settings – Enable at Start of Every Trip, Require Lane Change Confirmation, and Lane Change Notification. Through the Enable at Start of Every Trip setting, Navigate on Autopilot can be set to automatically turn on each time a driver enters a navigation route. Once enabled, anytime a driver is on a highway and uses Autopilot with a location plugged into the navigation bar, the feature will be on by default. If a driver selects ‘No’ to Require Lane Change Confirmation, lane changes will happen automatically, without requiring a driver to confirm them first. Drivers can elect to get notified about an upcoming lane change by receiving an audible chime as well as a default visual prompt. Additionally, all cars made after August 2017 will also have the option to have their steering wheel vibrate for the alert as well.
As Elon Musk himself points out, the press release sells the feature a little bit short:
Tesla says it’s already tested it internally, and with Early Access Program drivers, for half a million miles already. The feature’s starting to roll out today for US customers, and “will be introduced in other markets in the future pending validation and regulatory approval.”