A software update for all Tesla Model S cars claims to " completely end range anxiety" and makes it "impossible" to run out of charge without intentionally doing so. The update also brings some autonomous driving features to newer Model S cars.
Announced by company chief executive Elon Musk, the software does not make the cars more efficient as had been speculated, but does factor in wind speed, high mountain ranges and how you are driving to ensure you never stray too far from one of the company's Superchargers.
Even when the driver isn't using turn-by-turn directions, the car's computer will analyse their route in relation to the company's expanding network of Superchargers, warning them if they make a turn which will take them out of range from a charger. The system can also ignore Superchargers which are busy in favour of ones which are in range and expected to be available when the driver reaches them.
Available to download by end of March
The software is in beta testing now and is hoped to start rolling out to customers before the end of March. Musk said the company is aiming to release software updates every three to four months.
Musk says the system will be a free over-the-air update, delivered to all Model S cars over their 3G internet connection. "It's basically impossible to run out of range," Musk said. "Unless you do so intentionally."
Further looking to remove range anxiety from consumers unsure about all-electric cars, Tesla says 90% of the US population is within 175 miles of a Supercharger, which refills the Model S' battery by 80% in less than an hour. A Model S can typically drive for between 200 and 250 miles on one charge.
By connecting to the Supercharger network, Tesla cars will now tell their owner when they have enough charge to make it to the next Supercharger on a driver-determined route. This saves wasting time waiting for the car to charge more than is needed, and frees up the charging bay for the next user. Is the battery runs low, a warning is triggered and the on-board system gives the driver their options, Simply select the Supercharger closest to your intended route and the car will take you there.
Musk says the sweet spot for electric car range vs price is between 250 and 350 miles. He says a battery capable of delivering 400 or 500 miles of range would be possible, but for a much higher price and with far longer charging times. The CEO also described how regular software updates are "waking up the car" as more features are added and improved on over time.
Also included in the 6.2 software update are autonomous driving features. Only for recent Model S D cars which have the compatible self-driving hardware already installed, the update brings automatic emergency braking and blind spot alerts.
Collision Avoidance Assist automatically applies the brakes to avoid the impact if the car sense an unavoidable frontal collision. Automatic Emergency Braking will stop applying the brakes when the driver presses the accelerator pedal, brake pedal, or sharply turns the steering wheel.
Another feature is Blind Spot Warning, which displays a white arc on the instrument panel, below the speedometer, when the car detects another vehicle in the driver's blind spot at speeds between 20 miles per hour and 85mph. If a collision with the vehicle becomes likely, two red arcs appear on the dashboard, the steering wheel vibrates, and an alarm is sounded.
Version 6.2 also includes Valet Mode, a discreet way of limiting the car's performance and restricting access to certain settings and personal information, for when a valet of a hotel or restaurant is driving the car. With the press of a button, the driver can impose a speed limit, lock the glove box and front boot, and disable personal information like driver profiles and homelink settings. The software ups the top speed of the range-topping Model S P85 D from 130mph to 155mph, a common electronically-limited speed of most saloon cars of its size and performance.
Finally, Musk gave some information about the upcoming version 7.0 software, which will install an all-new user interface and take advantage of the autonomous driving hardware already installed in some newer Teslas. This will include automatic steering and the ability to let the car drive itself on the motorway between San Francisco and Seattle with no driver involvement at all.
The upcoming Model X, a sports utility vehicle to rival the likes of the Range Rover Evoque, will be coming this summer, Musk said, adding that it looks a lot better than what the company has shown so far.