Autonomous driving technology is still in its early stages, so you can’t simply hop behind the wheel and read a book. Drivers must pay attention both to take over if something goes wrong and to do tasks the technology isn’t capable of doing on its own just yet. Tesla eliminated one of those tasks by removing the need for drivers to approve lane changes while using Navigate on Autopilot.
Until now, while using Navigate on Autopilot, the car couldn’t change lanes without the driver’s approval. Whether the lane change was to manage a split in the highway, take an exit ramp, or simply avoid stopped traffic, the driver had to okay the move by engaging the turn signal. It was a small ask of the driver, but it made the feature less autonomous.
A recent update has removed this requirement so the car will make the lane change without asking for the driver’s approval. Of course, the driver still has to pay attention and keep his hands on the wheel at all times. This still isn’t the fully autonomous technology that will let you get in a nap on the way to the office and Tesla is quick to reiterate the driver must pay attention even with Autopilot engaged.
The new feature will work anytime Navigate on Autopilot is engaged and is rolling out as a gradual over-the-air update. Not all owners will get this at once, which is the way Tesla often rolls out updates, so be patient if you’re anxiously awaiting this feature on your Tesla. It’s coming.
If, on the other hand, this is a step too far past your comfort level and you still want the car to check with you before it changes lanes, then that’s not a problem. The system can be set to either automatically engage the new feature all the time or to continue to require driver intervention. It’s a matter of personal preference.
Tesla owners have driven more than 66 million miles using Navigate on Autopilot with more than 9 million successful lane changes with driver approval. While still not the self-driving car of the future, this update does take Tesla one step closer to that reality.