An upgrade to Tesla Autopilot will arrive without a promised navigation feature.
An upgrade to Tesla Autopilot will arrive without a promised navigation feature.

Tesla owners will have to keep waiting for a key Autopilot navigation update because CEO Elon Musk says it's still not ready.

An over-the-air software update is underway, but Musk announced via Twitter on Friday that it will not arrive with the anticipated feature, called Navigate on Autopilot.

The system is supposed to work this way, according to Consumer Reports auto analyst Mel Yu: Drivers enter a destination into the Tesla navigation system. Then the car automatically makes sure it's in the correct lane to get onto the correct highway in order to reach the designated destination, even changing lanes as needed. Once the vehicle reaches an off-ramp, the driver would need to take the wheel again.

This feature would have been for Model S cars and Model X SUVs built from October 2016 to the present, and all Model 3 sedans, that have the Enhanced Autopilot feature.

In his tweet, Musk said of the software update: “V9 moving to wide release now. Holding back Autopilot drive on navigation for a few more weeks of validation. Extremely difficult to achieve a general solution for self-driving that works well everywhere.”

A Tesla spokeswoman said via email Friday that the company had no comment beyond Musk’s tweet.

Current partial-automation systems typically control a car’s speed and steering for convenience, not as a safety feature, says Jake Fisher, CR's director of auto testing. “Automakers shouldn’t rush features out before they’re ready for consumers. It’s better to be safe than to be first.”

More on Partial Automation

It’s no shock that Tesla has to wait on launching this feature, says Sam Abuelsamid, a senior analyst who focuses on automotive technology at Navigant, a consulting and research firm. “Given the limited capability of the computing hardware and sensing that Tesla has onboard, I’m not at all surprised that they are struggling to get it working reliably. My guess is they are particularly challenged by inclement weather, but even good weather could be problematic for this type of capability.”

Most Tesla owners are likely to be fine with waiting, though, he says. “It seems that most owners have an utterly irrational capacity for patience when it comes to Tesla,” he says.

And will Tesla really be able to roll it out in a few weeks, as Musk tweeted?

“Anything is possible,” Abuelsamid says. “I’m not holding on my breath.”

Features that will be included in the Version 9 release, according to Tesla:

  • A dashcam feature using Autopilot Cameras for Model 3 and Model S cars and Model X SUVs built roughly from August 2017 to now. It will allow owners to “record and store video footage captured by the car’s forward facing camera onto a USB flash drive.” 
  • New blindspot warning for Model 3 and Model S cars and Model X SUVs built roughly October 2016 to present. It should “improve safety and increase confidence when changing lanes.”
  • Even play Atari Games in the car (while in Park).