Business / Corporate

Tesla reportedly to unveil 'autopilot' cars this week

Bloomberg

Tesla Motors Inc. will make its first foray toward automated driving, joining luxury rivals in offering high-tech features, including one that can keep the car in its lane, according to a source familiar with the carmaker’s plans.

It will announce the plans this week, said the source, who asked not to be identified because the details are not yet public.

Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk posted on Twitter last week that the carmaker will “unveil the D and something else” and included a photo of a darkly lit Tesla and the date Oct. 9.

Tesla, maker of the Model S luxury sedan, is adding electronic features that help drive the car, reducing the strain of traffic congestion. The automaker is responding to the increasing use of such functions by rivals such as Volkswagen AG’s Audi and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, as well as more mass-market manufacturers such as Honda Motor Co.

The automaker last month began installing cameras in the Model S, including one facing forward from behind the windshield that will enable safety technology required by European regulators, Tesla spokesman Simon Sproule said. He declined to confirm the specific safety features ahead of Tesla’s announcement.

“We started installing camera hardware from September in support of European” safety regulations, Sproule said. “More news to come.”

Automakers are increasingly competing on automated driver-assistance features, which are seen as a stepping stone to self-driving vehicles and require more sensors and computing power in vehicles.

More cars are parking themselves, telling their drivers when they are drifting out of the lane or when a vehicle is in the driver’s blind spot, and automatically maintaining a safe distance from the car in front when driving in stop-and-go traffic.

Musk said in June that Tesla was advancing plans to add self-driving, or “auto-pilot” features, to its electric cars. By next year, “you’ll be able to go from highway on-ramp to highway exit without touching any controls,” he said.

Chipmaker Nvidia Corp. has supplied Tesla with processors for current versions of the Model S, which features a 17-inch touch screen for information and entertainment in its dashboard. It also provides in-vehicle information and entertainment technology to Honda and other automakers.

Attached to Musk’s tweet last week was a picture of an obscured garage door marked as “D,” lifted enough to show the contours of a vehicle inside. No further details were available.

Besides the Model S, the company has announced plans to begin selling the Model X sport utility vehicle in 2015 and the Model 3, a smaller, more affordable premium sedan, by 2017.

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