There is necessary hardware in every Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) car built since late 2014 for Tesla’s Autopilot suite of semi-autonomous driving features.
But the feature requires an additional $2,500 to enable it when you order the car, and if the car is already bought they can pay an extra $3,000 to enable the feature after already taking delivery of their car. Not every customer does order the Autopilot feature though.
In a bid to change the minds of those who don’t take the Autopilot feature after an order or even after they have bought it already, Tesla is making the Autopilot feature free for a month.
Owners of the Tesla cars will get the same opportunity just as owners have with satellite radio, or the telematics system with General Motor’s OnStar. Clients will get a chance to test and drive the car with the features for a month before they can opt into buying the Autopilot feature, or pay a monthly fee just for the telematics system.
Tesla broke the news to the Tesla owners via messages which were displayed on the cars central touchscreen display. Any customers who will try the free trial will then get an email which details for them how to add Autopilot permanently.
The free trial also demonstrates a flexibility of using software to control some major car features. This is an addition to the way that Tesla updates cars for the owners. The electric motor company already sends over the air software updates, and now it can let owners try them too.
The Autopilot feature was launched in October 2015, with the version 7.0 of the Tesla operating system. At launch some of the features which were available included adaptive cruise control, automated steering, and an automatic lane change function.
The lane change function allows drivers to simply flick a turn signal stalk and let the car initiate a lane change. The car will do everything if conditions are ideal.
Tesla also strongly recommends that the Autopilot system be used in good weather on roads which have clear lanes marked, especially features such as the auto steering function. Not everyone however has listened to this wisdom nugget, which has led to some close calls which people film and post on YouTube.
January this year saw the addition of the Summon feature. It allows an owner to call his car, and for it to maneuver its way through parking and get to the owner without a driver on board. The feature is only for forward and backward movement at the moment and does not work for parallel parking, yet.
Entrepreneur and Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, believes one of the hurdles to Autopilot technology is regulation than the technology itself. He has said his company will continuously try to develop the technology until cars can more or less drive themselves from point A to point B.