Elon Musk announced on Friday that the Tesla Model 3 order page will no longer offer consumers the option to pre-order full autonomous driving as a future software upgrade, a change that has also rolled out to the Model S and X order pages. The surprise change means that buyers will have to ask Tesla for the change as an off-menu upgrade over the next week, after which the option will not be available as part of the car’s purchase.
Tesla started offering the option with its Model S and X vehicles in October 2016, also becoming available for the Model 3 when the car entered production in July 2017. The $3,000 pre-order is dependent on buyers also unlocking the semi-autonomous “enhanced Autopilot” mode, available for $5,000 at the time of vehicle purchase or $6,000 thereafter. Musk has made estimations about when coast-to-coast autonomous driving could become possible, but there is no fixed release date for the feature. Musk claimed that the feature has been removed for “causing too much confusion.”
Musk announced the “Hardware 2” platform in October 2016, a combination of cameras, GPS and ultrasonic radar included in every new car that was intended to provide full, hands-off autonomous driving. Musk suggested that the company’s cars could complete a coast-to-coast drive by the end of 2017, but Musk had to admit in February that the company missed this deadline because it would have required a “brittle” software solution that would not work for many other situations.
The company has shown signs of progress toward autonomous driving. In August it announced a self-designed A.I. chip that would replace the Nvidia Drive PX 2 as an upgrade called “Hardware 3.” The chip will be a free upgrade for people that pre-ordered the feature, and while it’s not needed for enhanced Autopilot, the chip will be found in every Tesla in around April 2019.
It may take a while before Tesla is able to deliver on its previous promise. This month, when he announced delays to a feature intended for “enhanced Autopilot,” Musk noted that it’s “extremely difficult to achieve a general solution for self-driving that works well everywhere.”
For now, as Model 3 buyers enjoy a cheaper range of vehicles, they’ll have to make do without the full autonomy pre-order.