Tesla Motors will soon begin rolling out software to restore lost Autopilot driver-assistance features, its CEO says, as a prelude to what the company claims will be the launch of genuine self-driving capabilities.
Last month, Tesla announced that it was equipping new Model S and Model X electric cars with a more elaborate suite of sensors, known as "Hardware 2."
With eight cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and a forward-facing radar system, that system includes many more sensors than the previous "Hardware 1" suite.
But vehicles equipped with Hardware 2 that are being sold today lack several features previously available as part of Autopilot, including adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking.
A software update that may restore at least some of these features will launch in "about three weeks," Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted over the weekend in response to a customer query.
Musk said updates will "roll out incrementally in monthly releases."
These monthly releases could add the self-driving capabilities Musk has hinted at previously, argues the Silicon Valley Business Journal.
It notes that Tesla already lists "full self-driving capability" as an option on its online configurators for the Model S and Model X.
The description says this feature is designed to "be able to conduct short and long distance trips with no action required by the person in the driver's seat."
It also mentions the ability to plug into Supercharger DC fast-charging stations automatically, and for cars to select a destination based on the owner's calendar.
A disclaimer notes that self-driving capability is "dependent upon extensive software validation and regulatory approval, which may vary widely by jurisdiction."
At the launch of the Hardware 2 package, Musk said his goal is for a self-driving Tesla vehicle to leave Los Angeles, take one or more occupants to New York City, and park there without any driver input, as soon as next year.
2016 Tesla Model X
In his updated Tesla "master plan," Musk also discussed an autonomous ride-sharing service, which would allow owners to rent out their cars and summon them back when needed.
Musk did not mention a timeline for the launch of this service, but a "Tesla Network" ride-sharing service is mentioned in the disclaimer pertaining to self-driving capabilities on the company's website.
Tesla also recently released a pair of videos showing self-driving prototype cars testing on public roads.