For anyone not following the auto industry, or who doesn't own a high-end German automobile, Tesla’s announcement late Thursday about the latest features on its new Model S would have left them floored.
The car now comes with an autopilot mode, which, among other things, allows it to stay in its lane, recognize speed limits, and watch out for other cars ahead of it. Here’s a demonstration video from The Verge:
According to IHS’ Jeremy Carlson, much of this technology — like adaptive cruise control and lane control assist can already be found in other luxury vehicles. He said CEO Elon Musk’s presentation were largely in-line with his expectations: Musk had previously told CNN Money that Tesla was a “Silicon Valley company” and not an “automotive company,” and thus was falling behind if it wasn’t leading the way. This was Musk admission that they had some catching up to do.
But Carlson agreed that the lack of real surprises Thursday evening noted by some industry analysts misses the point.
“This stuff does get democratized downmarket throughout the industry,” he told Fusion.
While we are still several years away from seeing the full suite of networked sensors and networked capabilities Tesla just announced on, say, a Honda Civic, he said, it is likely to happen eventually, in one form or another.
“The important thing here is we’re starting to see the vehicle control itself,” he said.
Cars are becoming more connected, not only to their own inputs, but to drivers’ other, non-automotive apps, like their Outlook or Google calendars. Carlson imagined a scenario where your car can tell you if you have a meeting in another part of the city, check the gas, and tell you how much time you’ll need to leave to get there.
It turns out Tesla is already there now. Musk also announced that the car will be able to:
— Sync up to your appointment books, and meet you in front of your office, with the A/C already on and music playing.
— Park itself in your garage.
— Be summoned to anywhere you are (as long as you’re on private property)
Here's Musk introducing those features, starting around the 9 minute mark:
Carlson acknowledged Tesla appears to be the first to have networked the various autopilot features previously scattered among luxury vehicles onto a single operating system, Carlson said.
Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas also said Tesla will be the first to roll the ParkPilot self-parking feature, for now just a concept at other automakers.
“The combination of software, computing power and a network of connected cars constantly under analysis and testing is unlike anything else in the auto industry,” he said in a note.
But probably not for long.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.