Tesla Navigate on Autopilot video demonstration

[Credit: Tesla]

It took a little longer than expected, but Tesla’s newest driver assist feature — Navigate on Autopilot — is finally seeing a wide release. In an announcement on Twitter, Elon Musk noted that the new feature would start rolling out to V9 vehicles starting Friday night. To provide more background, the electric car maker also released a blog post and a demo video outlining Navigate on Autopilot’s capabilities and its proper use.

Navigate on Autopilot was initially experienced by members of Tesla’s advanced early access program late last month. In Software V9’s release notes, Tesla described the feature as a way to get drivers to their “destination more efficiently by guiding (their) car on and off the highway,” and by intelligently suggesting lane changes to keep vehicles on their route. The feature also allowed Autopilot to make speed adjustments to prevent drivers from getting stuck behind slow vehicles.

Inasmuch as the feature was well-received, though, Tesla ultimately opted to hold back Navigate on Autopilot when it conducted a wide rollout of Software Version 9 earlier this month. In an October 5 tweet, Elon Musk noted that Tesla would perform a few more weeks of validation for the feature. Tesla eventually started releasing Navigate on Autopilot to a selected number of users earlier this week with update 2018.42, though it was somewhat tempered down, with drivers having to use the car’s turn stalk to initiate suggested lane changes.

This same system was described by Tesla in its recent blog post about the feature. The company did note that using the turn stalk to confirm lane changes will be temporary, though, as future iterations of Navigate on Autopilot would allow customers to “waive the confirmation requirement.”

“While initially, the feature will require drivers to confirm lane changes using the turn stalk before the car moves into an adjacent lane, future versions of Navigate on Autopilot will allow customers to waive the confirmation requirement if they choose to. In both of these scenarios, until truly driverless cars are validated and approved by regulators, drivers are responsible for and must remain in control of their car at all times.”

While the iteration of Navigate on Autopilot being rolled out today is undoubtedly less robust than the version introduced to early access users, the capabilities it adds to Tesla’s driver-assist suite remain notable. Tesla notes in its blog post that with driver supervision, Navigate on Autopilot “guides a car from a highway’s on-ramp to off-ramp, including suggesting and making lane changes, navigating highway interchanges, and taking exits.”

Ultimately, the introduction of Navigate on Autopilot could be seen as yet another gesture of Tesla’s commitment to safety. While Autopilot is a convenience feature, after all, it is also one of the electric cars’ most notable safety systems. Tesla’s Vehicle Safety Report for Q3, for one, revealed that one accident or crash-like event is registered by the company for every 3.34 million miles driven while Autopilot is engaged, compared to one accident or crash-like event for every 1.92 million miles driven without Autopilot. During the recent earnings call, Tesla VP for Engineering Stuart Bowers noted that he was personally excited about Navigate on Autopilot’s active safety features.

“We will soon begin to roll out the team’s most advanced Autopilot feature ever, Navigate on Autopilot. In our last release, we launched a new set of neural networks that combined together, provide a view of everything happening around the car. One area that I’m personally really excited to build on with this improvement is active safety. With the advancement in neural networks covering 360 degrees of view around our car, we can provide a level of constant vigilance that humans just can’t. Ultimately, this should allow us to warn, even intervene, for an enormous percentage of modern accidents and to ship these improvements as software upgrades to our existing customers,” he said.

Navigate on Autopilot could very well become a great platform for Tesla to refine the first features of its Full Self-Driving suite, which the company seems to be focusing on with the development of its homegrown silicon chip. Once Tesla starts rolling out Hardware 3 to its fleet, Elon Musk’s vision of having a fleet of electric cars that are capable of full autonomy would likely become that much closer to reality.

Tesla’s official blog post for Navigate on Autopilot could be accessed here.

Watch Tesla’s demo video for Navigate on Autopilot below.

Tesla Navigate on Autopilot video demonstration
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