Tesla Puts Shackles On Ballyhooed Model S Autopilot Feature, Still Touts Superiority Over Human Drivers

Tesla said it's rolling out a software update, Tesla Version 7.1, that will put some new restrictions on hands-free driving in Model S sedans. After applying the the update, Model S vehicles in Autopilot mode will be restricted to going no more than 5 miles per hour over the speed limit when cruising through residential neighborhoods and highways without a divider.

Having Autopilot on will also result in Tesla's vehicles slowing down in situations where a human driver might do the same, like on curves or after flipping the turn signal in anticipation of an upcoming turn. This is to make the autopilot mode a bit more safe, though Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a conference call to reporters that he wasn't aware of any accidents stemming from previous versions of the software.

Tesla Interior

Musk also maintains that the autopilot features is "probably better than human at this point in highway driving, as it's able to stay within its lane through the use of camera, radar, ultrasonic sensor, and GPS mapping technologies.

"Autopilot allows Model S to steer within a lane, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal, and manage speed by using active, traffic-aware cruise control. Digital control of motors, brakes, and steering helps avoid collisions from the front and sides, as well as preventing the car from wandering off the road. Your car can also scan for a parking space, alert you when one is available, and parallel park on command," Tesla stated last October when it rolled out Tesla Version 7.0.

Despite the confidence in its Autopilot system, critics of the technology believe the roll out is premature, a notion that's reinforced by YouTube videos showing some close calls with Autopilot engaged. The new restrictions are the results of those concerns.