NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk unveiled the company's latest foray into autonomous vehicles, releasing Version 7 of the software which enables auto driving.
On a conference call with journalists, Musk said to think of Version 7 still as a public beta. "We want people to be careful at first," Musk said. "As we release the software and more people enable the autopilot, each driver will be an expert trainer in how the autopilot should work."
Musk also teased an upcoming software, version 7.1, which will allow the car to put itself automatically to bed in a garage, by tapping the phone app. Users would also summon the car with 7.1, but Musk did not give a timeframe on when it would be released.
The software, which takes into account sensors, high-precision digital maps, GPS and navigation, allows the car to read speed signs, though Musk cautioned the first version of the software can not take into account stop signs or red lights just yet. Those will come in future versions of the software as it gets more refined over time.
Musk said the software would begin uploading tonight and North America drivers can start installing them tomorrow, but cautioned it would take a few days for it to roll out to the entire North American fleet. Musk cautioned that drivers should still have their hands on the wheel. Regulators in the U.S. and around the world haven't decided yet what to do with self-driving cars.
European and Asian Tesla drivers would have to wait a little longer, perhaps a week, as the company awaits regulatory approval for the software.
"The radar is very good at detecting large objects and it can see through fog, rain, snow and dust. It has super human sensors and can see through things a person can not," Musk said.
The new software will be available to every Tesla car made from September last year and be available overnight, via an over-the-air software update. "It [the software] can see through fog, rain, snow and dust -- it has super human sensors and can see through things a person can not," Musk said.
It will cost $2,500 to activate the autonomous features in the car.
"You can think of this as a connected vehicle," Musk said. The South African-born Musk said it didn't make financial sense to retro fit older vehicles. Musk also noted the software would be coming to its newly released Model X.
The latest version of Tesla's software will give the cars auto steering, enabling them to take different visual or road cues on where to drive, allowing the car to pick lanes, follow vehicles or take a holistic path, using predictive algorithms. "The car is constantly looking where it is in the world and depending upon where you are in the world, you can choose left or right or use the navigation," Musk stated.
There were some troubles getting the software to recognize lane markings, especially on roads where lane markings have been changed over the years. In order to solve this, the software learned that it needs to rely on the navigation and GPS for lane positioning and ignore the visual system.
Musk said he expects Tesla to have a fully autonomous car in three years, but joked that he needs to recalibrate his expectations a little bit. He noted that the new software would really help change the driving experience.
"I think it will be quite a profound experience for people when they do it," Musk said. "We've been testing it for over a year and people have been blown away. It's quite an interesting new experience and I think it's going to change people's perception of the future quite rapidly."