Tesla’s chief executive and serial technology entrepreneur, Elon Musk, has said his company’s cars will be able to be summoned and drive autonomously across the US to pick up their owners within the next two years.
The electric car company has rolled out a new version of its Model S and Model X software which gives Tesla’s premium automobiles the ability to park in a space perpendicular to the road. They can already do parallel parking and park in a garage, including operating a garage door.
The software also allows a car’s owner to “summon” the car and have it drive out of the space to meet them, if within 3 miles of the car.
Musk said at a press conference held on Sunday night: “I actually think, and I might be slightly optimistic on this, within two years you’ll be able to summon your car from across the country.
“It’s more like remote-control parking. But this is the first little step in that direction.”
The company warned that the car is not capable of spotting every object, including bikes hanging from the ceiling of a garage, but the system should be helpful for tight-parking spots that prevent the driver from exiting the vehicle.
The update also made safety improvements to the car’s self-driving Autopilot feature, which was rolled out in October 2015 , leading some to film near-misses when the system was stretched past its limits with hair-raising consequences .
New speed limits are now in place, meaning the cars will only drive at or slightly above the speed limit when using the Autopilot on residential roads and without a central reservation automatically slowing down when it enters the area. The car will also slow for corners and when an indicator is used for exiting a highway.
Musk said: “On roads without a centre divider, where there’s potential for a more serious collision, it makes sense not to go more than five miles per hour above the speed limit.”
The Model S is “probably better than humans at this point in highway driving” according to Musk.
The software update began rolling out to the company’s 60,000 vehicles, including the new Model X and Model S’s made after September 2014. Musk said he’s not aware of any accidents caused when a Tesla was driving in Autopilot mode.