Elon Musk says the Tesla Model S will soon be self-steering

Now you can use your hands for texting.
Now you can use your hands for texting.
Image: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk says that in a few months’ time, his showcase Model S electric car will be updated to include an auto-pilot mode for use on large, meandering highways.

With a couple of stops for charging along the way, the car could then steer itself on the 807-mile drive from Seattle to San Francisco, he said.

In a conference call with reporters focused largely on measures to prevent drivers running out of charge enroute, Musk spoke in a cautious tone about the coming feature, which he first mentioned publicly last October, and is already more or less available with Lexus, BMW and Audi.

He said that current Tesla hardware would actually allow a motorist to use auto-pilot “from parking lot to parking lot” on long-distance drives from one city to another. But he would not enable this capability for urban components of such a trip, because of city and suburban hazards, including children running into the road.

So this feature is essentially an upgrade to the “cruise control” feature included in cars for decades, but with sound sensors to steer, change lanes and brake when necessary. It still is a ways off from Google’s autonomous, self-driving car, which has caused so much hoopla.

One cool dimension, however, is that auto-pilot will allow you to summon your car and send it off to park itself—as long as it’s done on private property, at slow speed.