Tesla autopilot about to steer Model S

The era of semi-autonomous drive cars is about to take off.

During Tesla's second-quarter earnings call, CEO Elon Musk outlined plans to roll out the beta version of its autopilot software to a small group of owners on Aug. 15.

Depending on the feedback, Musk said he expects Tesla to offer the technology to all Model S owners within a couple of months.

"We're working out the final details," Musk said.

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The CEO explained that Tesla's autopilot feature will help drivers, but not replace them. In other words, it will work as the next leg of cruise and steering control—meaning drivers will have to stay engaged, but can feel confident the Model S will maneuver through traffic.

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"It's much like autopilot in a plane," he said. "You turn it on in a plane, but there's still some expectation the pilot will pay attention to what the plane is doing and won't go to sleep or disappear from the cockpit."

"We don't want to set the expectation that you can basically pay no attention to what the car is doing," Musk said.

A Tesla Model S is displayed at a Tesla showroom in Palo Alto, California.
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The autopilot system will make decisions on steering the vehicle by integrating data from cameras, radar and the GPS navigation system. Tesla has been working with a number of suppliers, including Mobileye, to develop the system.

Tesla is not alone in developing technology that allows semi-autonomous driving. Nearly every single automaker is moving quickly to do the same thing.

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