Autonomous Vehicles

Published on January 10th, 2016 | by Kyle Field


Tesla Model S 7.1 Firmware Update Adds New Feature (Videos)

January 10th, 2016 by  


New Autopilot Features! | Image Credit: Kyle Field

When Autopilot was first rolled out to the masses, we saw some dumb and just plain scary videos popping up on YouTube. With the software being a beta release, these kinds of moves seemed just plain reckless. Coming out of the initial launch, we reported that Tesla was working on an incremental firmware update that would add safety features to the Autopilot suite as well as a new remote parking feature. That day has come and version 7.1 of the Tesla Model S Firmware has started popping up on vehicles around the world.

Several videos have popped up demoing one of the key functionalities in the firmware called “Summon.” Summon enables the car to park itself into a garage parking space — without a driver in the car. This is fantastic for people with narrow garages and, more importantly, demonstrates the ability of the car to navigate a complex situation without human interaction. In addition to parking the car, Summon integrates automatic garage door opening and closing which is demonstrated well in the two videos at the bottom of this post.

Perpendicular Autopark similarly adds the ability for the car to park in more conventional nose-in or tail-in parking spots by itself. Again, this is more substantial when viewed as another piece of a full autonomous driving suite, but will surely be a nice add-on for those who fear parking.


Tesla Autopilot Sensing | Image Credit: Tesla Motors

Not to blow these features out of proportion, Summon and Autopark are designed for very predictable situations, but fill in a few more pieces of the driving experience. Rolling these features out a la carte will give Tesla more information about how these features work in the real world, which will improve the overall autonomous driving experience when the time comes.

HomeLink: Auto-Open/Close is a helpful addition that, in my 1 week of Model S ownership, I have already wished was built in… and now it is. HomeLink already uses GPS to detect when the car enters the proximity of the area where it was programmed (where the garage door is) and pops up a button… this new feature automates the full action, triggering the door to open on the way home and close on the way out.

Here is the full list of improvements that come with firmware version 7.1:

  • Autosteer
  • Summon (Beta)
  • Perpendicular Autopark
  • Enhanced Autopilot Visualizations
  • Traffic-Aware Cruise Control Improvements
  • Additional Autopilot Improvements
  • HomeLink: Auto-Open/Close
  • Vehicle Lock Improvements
  • Display Auto-Brightness
  • Supercharger Site Availability
  • Trip Planner Improvements
  • Additional Improvements

A forum post at TMC includes pictures of the full release notes for the update, including descriptions of each of the features and improvements that are included in the new update. I’m still waiting for the update to come through on my Model S, though I won’t be getting most of the features, as I don’t have Autopilot, but it is already blowing my mind how the car just keeps getting fairly significant updates that improve the way it works every day.

Two videos from YouTuber Ricco831 demonstrate the Summon functionality with automatic garage door opening/closing and leave me impressed:

Perpendicular Autopark:

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I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. TSLA investor. Tesla referral link:

  • Ivor O’Connor

    Something not discussed but should be. The Tesla has many cameras. Probably on all sides. They also have WiFi. Are, or can, the cameras be used to record everything around? It seems security software knowing who dinged your car is just an OTA update away if it is not already in place.

    • Joe Viocoe

      They are not cameras.
      But acoustic sensors outside the range of human or animal hearing. Think sonar.

      • Ivor O’Connor

        There are both. Both sonar and visible camera.

        • Joe Viocoe

          The only auto pilot camera is forward facing.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            So one camera forward facing and one camera for backing up. No cameras to the sides?

          • Joe Viocoe

            Nope, and I think the back up camera is only for the viewing pleasure of the driver. The backup sensors for the autopilot features are not optical.

  • hybridbear

    Will the perpendicular park work when there aren’t other vehicles around? To avoid door dings we never park between vehicles, always parking far away in parking lots.

  • Carl Raymond S

    Two thoughts on ‘summon’.

    First – summon has quantifiable value in terms of real estate. If you’ve ever lived in a house with a storage problem, the car fights with stuff over who owns the garage. Suddenly, many garages are now effectively several square metres larger.

    Second – any parent knows the angst of managing toddlers in zones where cars reverse. I like how the car reverses slowly – but I would still like confirmation from Tesla that it’s simply not possible for the car to run over or into any obstacle, even say, a child playing hide-n-seek inside a cardboard box. A responsible driver would stand and watch the ‘summon’, having better vision from outside the car than within – sadly, not every driver fits that description.

    • Dragon

      I’m pretty sure the whole point of the feature is that it’s not possible to run into anything as long as the sensors are working properly. Of course I also remember a story of an SUV driver who backed into a car behind her, then got out telling the other driver “the car isn’t supposed to let me back into anything!” Yeah. I sure hope Tesla tech is more reliable than that.

      • Kyle Field

        As a programmer, I’m sure you can appreciate that it’s not possible to idiot proof something though Tesla is making leaps and bounds in idiot proofing cars. 😀

        • neroden

          Regarding making things foolproof:

          “Never underestimate the ingenuity of fools”

          I haven’t found the earliest source of the quote, but it’s a good one.

          • Otis11

            “Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I am not yet completely sure about the universe.”

          • Brooks Bridges

            That was Einstien I believe.

        • JeffJL

          So. Do Tesla consider their drivers idiots? 🙂

          • Bob_Wallace

            Some will be.


          • Joe Viocoe

            Not just their drivers. All drivers.
            To err is human. And the 30,000 deaths and far more injuries, each year…. It’s proven that driving isn’t something which humans have innate skill

          • Kyle Field

            All programmers do 😀

          • Brooks Bridges

            They’d be idiots if they didn’t.

      • Carl Raymond S

        Elon has tweeted that summon is a baby step towards summon from anywhere on the road network – e.g. NY to LA! If that’s what they are aiming for, my stressing over toddlers is small fry.

        • Carl Raymond S

          The tweet reads:

          “In ~2 years, summon should work anywhere connected by land & not blocked by borders, eg you’re in LA and the car is in NY”.

          You can almost hear Musk thinking… How do I fit this in 140 chars? I know, I’ll use a mathematical abbreviation for approximately (‘~’).

          But the average journalist does not speak math, so it’s now being reported that “Musk predicts that cars will drive from NY to LA by 2018”.

    • Ivor O’Connor

      I think one of the videos shows toys in the garage and demonstrates how the Tesla did not see the boxes behind the car. It looks like the Tesla is touching one of the boxes, or if not touching then is very nearly touching the box, by the bumper.

  • Dragon

    The only thing I noticed with the update (which they installed while my car was at Tesla service for a minor problem) is that the moved the temperature readout to the bottom of the steering wheel display, which is nice so I don’t have to keep the Clock app up on the left side of the display to see the temperature. I think they may have added a digital clock to the bottom bar as well, or maybe that was always there.

    If you can now see when superchargers are available in real time that will also be a big improvement – not that I’ve ever encountered a full one, though I used the last space one time. Usually I’m the only one there. I would appreciate that functionality more if it were on the phone app or the web site. Such info might affect when I leave for a trip, but I don’t want to go out to the car to check. Checking while you’re driving doesn’t make that much sense unless there are so many superchargers that you can choose to go to a different one. I suppose you could check and if chargers are full you could do an errand or something…

    All the other new stuff only affects auto pilot cars so the “free upgrades” aren’t always applicable to every owner. Heck, I don’t even have the garage door opener in mine.

    I’m disappointed there was no mention of any new safety features that will stop idiots from driving without their hands near the wheel and eyes on the road… I’m also surprised there hasn’t yet been a terrible accident caused by those idiots. Here’s hoping it will stay that way.

    • neroden

      They restored the temperature and time which were present prior to 7.0. There were major owner complaints about the disappearance of the time and temperature. That’s the downside of updates: they can make things worse.

      • Shane 2

        Windoze 7 to Windoze 8

      • Dragon

        Ah ha! I sort of thought I remembered that info being there before the 7 update but I’d only had the car a couple days before that update so I wasn’t sure. I definitely prefer that info to always be down there. It would also be great if they showed the actual cabin temperature. When I set the cabin to 68 sometimes I feel cold or lukewarm air blowing and I think it’s actually running the AC to LOWER the temperature when really all I want is to raise it to 68 and turn the system off. If I could see the cabin was 68 I’d turn it off myself. That’s a problem with a climate system that tries to hold a temperature instead of one where you set it to heat to X or cool to Y.

  • Shiggity

    Tesla cars are the only cars in the world that actively get better.

    Seriously, have you ever heard of a car that gets free upgrades? Dealerships call that blasphemy.

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