The original vision for self-driving cars–and we mean Disney’s EPCOT center or the World’s Fair, not Google’s vision of the reality of autonomous cars–was that would all recline our seats on a long drive and sleep away the trip to Grandma’s, or that blind individuals would now have their own transportation, or that shoppers would wait under a store awning while their cars zipped across the parking lot unaided and came to pick them up in a heavy downpour.
Of course, the reality of autonomous vehicles is a little different, but a new update from Tesla Motors (sent to their customers’ vehicles automatically) is bringing the concept a little closer. With some of their models now able to self-park, customers’ original ideas for these vehicles are becoming a reality.
It’s interesting to even think of cars having a software update in the first place, and even more exciting to think of your car receiving an update without your input. There are surely safeguards in place there, but most drivers on the road still have to take their vehicles to a dealership or garage in order to be upgraded, especially in the event of a manufacturer’s recall.
But the new self-parking feature isn’t quite the same as our dreamy-eyed jet pack visions yet. According to an article by ABC News, “Owners must line up their Model S sedan or Model X SUV within 33 feet of the space they want it to drive or back into. They must then stand within 10 feet and direct the car to park itself using the key fob or Tesla’s smartphone app. The car can also exit the spot when the driver summons it. If it’s going into a home garage, it can also open and close the garage door…Tesla says the system is helpful for tight parking spots, but cautions that it should only be used on private property since it can’t detect every potential obstacle. The car could hit bikes hanging from a garage ceiling, for example.”
The new update also includes a less flashy feature, and that’s the ability to limit the speed of the vehicle. While the driver will still have the option to turn off the Autopilot mode and drive as stupidly fast as he pleases, the self-driving engagement will only go at or slightly higher than the posted speed limit for that zone. This is truly the vision that some consumers have when they imagine the day we’re all driving autonomous cars: every vehicle on the road driving within the posted regulations, making it safer for us all.