Tesla Offers Free Autopilot Trials

August 10, 2018 at 10:16 AM

Tesla Inc. has begun offering free two-week trials of its semi-autonomous Autopilot technology to owners of its Model 3, S and X electric vehicles who haven’t already purchased the system.

The latest “Enhanced Autopilot” package allows for automated steering, braking, lane changing, parking and vehicle summoning under certain conditions. The system costs $5,000 at the time a car is purchased or $6,000 as an over-the-air software update.

Tesla began notifying owners about the promotional campaign via email and text messages this week. Another message will be sent to their vehicle’s touchscreen display when the trial is ready, allowing motorists to enable the features or opt-out of the trial.

Tesla, which has made a series of over-the-air updates to Autopilot since launching the system in 2015, also offered free trials in 2016. A comprehensive version 9.0 update, including “on-ramp to off-ramp” capability, is due within the next month.

Every vehicle Tesla has built since late 2014 includes the necessary sensors and other hardware needed to support the system. Take rates for the feature are estimated to be as high as 70%.

The carmaker has claimed Autopilot can make vehicles 40% safer than those without it. But the controversial system also has been faulted for several crashes, including some resulting in fatalities.

Tesla continues to stress that drivers are ultimately responsible for their own safety. The invitation to the new trial advises owners to enable the system only if they pay attention to the road, keep their hands on the steering wheel and are “prepared to take over at all times.”