From tech companies like Google and Apple, to nearly every automaker – they’re all getting into the driverless car game. But the Auto Pilot feature in the Tesla Model S is perhaps the closest to true driverless that you’ll see on the roadways right now.
We got an inside look at the Tesla dealership in Rocklin. Tesla started developing Auto Pilot in 2014 and began including it in the Model S in the Fall of 2015.
Tesla Communications Representative, Alexis Georgeson showed us how it works.
“The hardware that was put into the cars at the time are these 12 ultrasonic sensors. They see 360 degrees in every direction around the car. A long range radar that sits in the front of the car and sees a few hundred feet in front of the vehicle, and then a forward facing camera reads the lines in the road and can see other cars and read road signs like speed signs.”
While inside the car Auto Pilot is engaged with a switch located beneath the turn signal. It works much like cruise control allowing the driver to take their foot off the accelerator, but is much different in the fact that you can also take your hands off the steering wheel.
Auto Pilot controls the speed of the car based on the location of other cars in surrounding traffic. It also steers the car automatically staying within the lane lines even through curves. And when you engage the turn signal, Auto Pilot will change lanes automatically as well.
Georgeson says Auto Pilot is designed for highway use only right now, and is not a true driverless car, so drivers must still pay attention and remain engaged when the system is enabled.
Tesla will make software updates available for Auto Pilot users as the system continues to develop over time.