Why it matters: As Tesla’s autopilot technology takes a step forward, Elon Musk’s maturity takes a step backwards. In a tweet, Musk revealed that Tesla’s “most advanced autopilot feature ever,” called Navigate on Autopilot, would be available to US customers this weekend and would be rolling out to global markets shortly.
Shortly after the tweet, Tesla published a video and blog post that reveal the details of the feature. In essence, it’s designed to take full control of the vehicle on highways, from “on-ramp to off-ramp.” It’s able to autonomously navigate highway interchanges, take exits and change lanes. At present lane changing requires the driver to certify that it’s safe to do so, but Tesla will remove that requirement after the feature has been tested in the wild by users.
To enable the feature, head to Autopilot settings and enable Autosteer and Navigate on Autopilot and the option will show up when you enter a highway and have a preprogrammed destination. While the feature is designed to drive the car safely without user input, Tesla still maintains that “drivers are responsible for and must maintain in control of their car at all times. They say that the purpose of Navigate on Autopilot is to provide "an additional layer of safety that two eyes alone would not have."
Navigate on Autopilot will offer four settings regarding changing into faster moving lanes. The most aggressive, called Mad Max, will suggest changing into a lane if you’re currently traveling just slightly below your set cruise speed or slower. The average setting will change lanes if you’re traveling noticeably slower than the set cruise speed, and so on so forth. All settings are supposed to be equally safe.
What’s less safe is Elon Musk if he ever gets caught by the SEC again. A month ago, he was forced to step down as Chairman of Tesla and pay a $20 million fine for his tweets suggesting he would be taking Tesla private at $420 per share.
Worth it— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 27, 2018
Musk and Tesla shareholders in general lost a lot of money as shares plummeted after the SEC became involved, but shares have been on a strong upward trend recently and Musk is richer than ever. While the tweet seems to mostly be interpreted as Musk saying that the ‘420’ joke was worth it, the SEC could decide to interpret it as saying that the fines weren’t large enough to stop Musk from manipulating shares again. It wouldn’t be surprising if they threw the book at him in the future.
Regardless of Musk’s antics, Tesla seems to be doing a good job of continuing to improve their autopilot features. While Tesla is the big name in the autopilot game, Cadillac actually ranked higher than them in recent tests by Consumer Reports, so it’s likely that they’ll be pushing Navigate on Autopilot and other autonomous features even harder in the future.