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Tesla Will Make Some Autopilot Features Always-On by Default

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We’re probably still years away from truly self-driving cars being a reality, but Tesla is pushing the bounds of current technology with its Autopilot system. Its vehicles can drive on the highway, change lanes, and even brake in an emergency without human intervention. The system isn’t perfect, but Tesla thinks it will eventually be able to take you from point A to point B. What about when Autopilot isn’t active? Tesla wants to make your drive safer by implementing some of Autopilot’s features while the self-driving system is disabled.

Autopilot on Tesla vehicles uses a combination of radar and cameras to map the world around the car. The results can be impressive, but Tesla recommends drivers keep their hands on the wheel. That hasn’t stopped drivers from engaging in dangerous activities, though. Drivers have gotten in accidents while watching movies, and one Tesla owner even passed out behind the wheel, forcing police to trick Autopilot into stopping the car.

According to Tesla, two of the features that make Autopilot work will become part of the standard driving experience: Lane Departure Avoidance and Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance. Tesla collects data on how people drive its cars, and accidentally drifting out of your lane is the leading cause of crashes. Enabling these features even when Autopilot is off should help to reduce such incidents.

Tesla’s Lane Departure Avoidance will be available as an option without full Autopilot, applying gentle corrective steering if you drift out of your lane. It also checks to see if the turn signal is active and if your hands are on the wheel. If you don’t touch the wheel for a period of 15 seconds after corrective steering, the system will gradually reduce speed down to 15 mph below the speed limit and activate the hazard lights.

Tesla's Autopilot definitely provides the driver with a lot of helpful data, if the driver is paying attention

The Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance only kicks in when you’ve left your lane and the car detects an impending collision. At that time, it will steer the car back into its original lane. Again, you won’t need Autopilot enabled to take advantage of this. While the non-emergency lane is entirely optional, Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance is enabled automatically at the start of every trip. The driver can manually disable it, though.

Tesla says all these features will roll out to the Model 3 as an OTA update soon. Other Tesla vehicles will get the update eventually, but it’s only coming to those built in October 2016 or later.

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