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Tesla releases self-driving ‘Autopilot,’ but warns drivers against taking their hands off the wheel [VIDEO]

Technology uses radar, cameras, ultrasonic sensors and GPS to give Model S drivers some automated assistance



The automaker's latest addition to its tech-filled vehicles allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel - though they do so at their own risk. PHOTO: Tesla

The automaker’s latest addition to its tech-filled vehicles allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel – though they do so at their own risk. PHOTO: Tesla

PALO ALTO, Calif.—Tesla Motors is now offering drivers a bold advancement in automotive technology—the world’s only fully-integrated autopilot system that uses four different feedback modules to autonomously drive Tesla’s Model S.

The new technology became available to drivers in North America Thursday, via a software patch, and Tesla said it intends to roll out the update worldwide pending regulatory approval.

“Autopilot” functions using four different feedback modules: a camera, radar, ultrasonics and GPS, allowing the vehicle to steer within a lane, change lanes by tapping the turn signal and manage speed using “traffic-aware” cruise control. Meanwhile, the more Teslas that have the technology engaged, the better it should get; the systems provide real-time data to automaker, allowing Autopilot to learn and improve.

“Digital control of motors, brakes, and steering helps avoid collisions from the front and sides, as well as preventing the car from wandering off the road. Your car can also scan for a parking space, alert you when one is available, and parallel park on command,” the company said.

Tesla said Autopilot relieves drivers of the most tedious and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel, increasing safety and making highway driving more enjoyable.

“While truly driverless cars are still a few years away, Tesla Autopilot functions like the systems that airplane pilots use when conditions are clear,” Tesla added.

And in that beta-test vein, the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, issued a word of warning to drivers, telling them to make sure to keep their hands on the wheel.

“The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car,” the company noted.

Despite the limitations, the software patch, which has turned Teslas semi-autonomous overnight, seems likely to steer self-driving technology closer to the mainstream.

Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, explains ‘autopilot’ at a conference last year

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