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Technology & Innovation

Elon Musk Just Did What Google Has Been Trying to Do for Years

After all of Google's road tests, Tesla makes a bold move.

Tesla has made a big leap forward, pushing a huge update to its Model S and Model X electric vehicles that makes them semi-autonomous cars.

The new setting is really an amped up cruise control that’s meant for long stretches of highway. The system, according to the announcement, is a nearly hands-free driving system.

“We tell drivers to keep their hands on the wheel just in case, to exercise caution in the beginning,” Elon Musk said at a press event. “Over time, long term, you won’t have to keep your hands on the wheel — we explicitly describe this as beta.”

This Autopilot system can handle speed, steering within a well-defined lane, and changing to another lane with the flick of a switch (provided the way is clear), and all the driver has to do is supervise.

“It’s like a plane: It goes into autopilot, but the pilot still does things like takeoff and landing,” said Tesla’s head of comms, Ricardo Reyes.

Most seasoned drivers will be hesitant to relax themselves under this new system. This is a new role for drivers, writes Brad Templeton. “Many people have reported that even though they must supervise, highway cruise can make the trip more relaxing, just as basic cruise control does. The trick is to get your brain into putting focus on its new sole task — supervisor — so that the rest of your brain can relax. With cruise control, you are reasonably able to have one part of your brain worry about steering, and relax the part that was going to worry about speed. So this may happen here.”

Jerry Kaplan explains how self-driving cars are taught to make decisions like humans.


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