Tesla update includes full self-driving ‘preview,’ better voice recognition

Tesla CEO Elon Musk teased a holiday software update last week, and it began to trickle out to owners over the weekend, ahead of an expected wider rollout this week. The update is quite extensive and includes critical upgrades to voice recognition, including text message reading and sending, better “driving visualization,” and a few other more minor enhancements.

Perhaps most notable in this update is the improvement to the driving visualization that Tesla owners see on their displays. According to the release notes accompanying the update, the visualization will now include the display of additional objects, including “stoplights, stop signs, and select road markings.”

While it’s likely that this is what Musk may have been referring to as the “FSD (full self-driving) sneak preview” in his tease, these additional objects do not affect the operation of the car. Owners would still need to pay attention and respond to these various signals and road markings, Tesla warned.

We should mention that those driving visualization improvements are only available to owners who purchased their car after April 2019, or who received the FSD computer retrofit in their older vehicle. The company only started that latter program in compatible cars this past fall.

Tesla is also revamping its voice commands, allowing users to communicate with the car in a more natural manner. In this first release, the company focused on commands that “minimize having to touch the screen,” for example commands for adjusting mirrors, controlling the HVAC, and navigating.

Voice recognition will also now work with sending and receiving text messages, a feature that has curiously been absent from Teslas since the beginning. Teslas don’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support, so there was no way for owners to send or receive messages other than from their phones. The feature was one of the more commonly requested new features from owners.

Other upgrades include the standout independent game Stardew Valley and another game called Lost Backgammon. While there is no timetable for the full rollout of the update, if the past is any guide, most owners should receive it by the end of next month.

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