Tesla's big news today:
sudo killall -9 Autopilot

Shiny new on-board computers won't actually work while Tesla figures out how to auto-drive

Photo by Kaspars Grinvalds / Shutterstock
Who's driving? ... A Tesla Model S (Photo by Kaspars Grinvalds / Shutterstock)

Behind the smokescreen of its new onboard hardware announcement, Tesla is quietly killing off its controversial Autopilot feature in its new cars.

The money shot is buried in this announcement emitted today titled All Tesla Cars Being Produced Now Have Full Self-Driving Hardware.

The blog post is a masterpiece of misdirection. It leads with boasts that, from now on, all Model S and Model X (and at some point in the future Model 3) vehicles rolling off the production lines will have eight cameras, 12 ultrasound detectors, a front-facing radar, and a more powerful computer. This tech is all ready to run self-driving software and turn Teslas into autonomous rides, we're told.

But the statement then admits this:

Before activating the features enabled by the new hardware, we will further calibrate the system using millions of miles of real-world driving to ensure significant improvements to safety and convenience.

While this is occurring, Teslas with new hardware will temporarily lack certain features currently available on Teslas with first-generation Autopilot hardware, including some standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking, collision warning, lane holding and active cruise control.

It goes on to add: "As these features are robustly validated we will enable them over-the-air."

In other words this "self-driving hardware" will be built into freshly manufactured Teslas but not switched on. And Tesla's existing Autopilot technology – a potentially deadly super-cruise-control system – will also be disabled in these new vehicles. (Rides already out on the road can keep using their beta-grade Autopilot features if they wish.)

So, Tesla will spend an undisclosed amount of time using its customers' existing cars as data-collection machines so it can, at some point in the future, take a second shot at proper fully autonomous cars once it's learned from your mistakes. In the meantime, it's turned off one of the main features of its new vehicles.

That's not quite the message it hoped to hype this evening, though. ®

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