As wonderful as Tesla’s Autopilot is, there are some Tesla owners who decided not to spend the extra money to get it when they purchased their cars. There are actually two versions of Autopilot hardware. The first, called Hardware 1, went into all Tesla vehicles built on or after October 9, 2014. The second, dubbed Hardware 2, went into all cars beginning in February 2017, although the software upgrade needed to make it operational did not arrive until June of that year. The cost of Autopilot is $5,000 at the register (time of purchasing the car) or $6,000 if you decide to get it later.
On August 9, Tesla announced that all owners who do not have the latest Enhanced Autopilot software installed on their cars will be able to take advantage of a 14 day free trial. The software is being downloaded to every eligible car in the next few weeks. When completed, owners will be able to purchase the upgrade directly from their touchscreens or by accessing their Tesla account.
Once the software it available on their cars, owners will get a notice on their touchscreen notifying them their 14 day trial is available. They can decline the offer at that time, they can sample the features of the Enhanced Autopilot program one at a time, or they can simply sign up for the total package, which includes Autosteer, Traffic Aware Cruise Control, Automatic Lane Change, Summon, and Auto Park features.
Tesla is careful to warn drivers that Enhanced Autopilot does not make their car capable of driving itself. On its website, it includes this notice: “Before using Enhanced Autopilot, please read your Owner’s Manual for instructions and more safety information. While using Enhanced Autopilot features, it is your responsibility to stay alert, drive safely and be in control of your car at all times.” The website also features two videos that explain how to activate the 14 day free trial. There is one process for Model S and Model X owners and a separate process for Model 3 owners.
The company also warns that if the owner does not accept the offer, the software will be deactivated at the end of the trial period, which means Traffic Aware Cruise Control will no longer be available and the car will revert to normal cruise control operation. Hopefully, people won’t get confused while driving on the highway about which form of cruise control they are using.
Anyone who owns a Tesla with the Hardware 1 or Hardware 2 package but did not sign up for Enhanced Autopilot is eligible for the free trial, but their car must have downloaded and installed software version 2018.28.1 or later before the trial can begin. The move seems to be an attempt by Tesla to bring some cash in the door as it strives to silence its many critics.
V9.0 Update Coming Soon
During the most recent earnings call, Elon Musk said, “Right now, our focus is on the version 9 software release which has got a number of really cool things in it. And we’re hoping to get that out to early access program in about four weeks and then broadly in September. That’s the hardcore focus right now, and that will certainly include some significant advancements in autonomy.”
Just how significant will those advances be? Musk has been promising a car that can drive from LA to NYC unaided by a human touch for some time now. Will V9.0 make that cross country trek possible? We’ll find out in a few weeks after the update is complete.