Tesla soars into the future, unveiling autopilot features today that allow Model S cars to change lanes, break and even locate a parking space without driver assistance.  But don’t let go of the steering wheel just yet!

On the Horizon:

Thursday’s news from Elon Musk is making the tech and auto industry insane! Every big automaker from BMW to Ford is working hard on the game-changing notion of a self-driving car. Even non-automakers like Apple and Google are in the race. I covered the amazingly sleek autopilot features from Mercedes Benz earlier this year at CES. So much is written about the car of the future but Tesla just blew the competition out of the water with features available TODAY for Model S owners that allow their cars to do amazing things like steer, change lanes, adjust speeds and brake automatically with a simple software update available now.  Many other cars have features like this but require the driver to take over in minutes.  Today’s news puts auto driving Model S Teslas in the entirely new category of kick a$$.

Some of the new features Tesla touts include the ability to

“steer within a lane, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal, and manage speed by using active, traffic-aware cruise control. Digital control of motors, brakes, and steering helps avoid collisions from the front and sides, as well as preventing the car from wandering off the road. Your car can also scan for a parking space, alert you when one is available, and parallel park on command.” However, Tesla says don’t let go of the wheel for too long, that hand-free is still in beta mode.

What if…

You on a dirt road, are stuck in traffic on the 405 in Los Angeles or are trying to make a left hand turn on 23rd street and 8th Avenue in NYC…should you count on auto pilot to guide you through?  Plain and simple the answer is “no.”  Tesla admits that today’s software update is a work in progress and the software can’t navigate the vehicle through every road condition.

If there are no lane markings, the car cannot move you into another lane.  If you are in stand-still traffic, you cannot not use the auto drive features to guide you through it. And by all means, if you find yourself  in Midtown Manhattan…like ever…don’t let it drive for you.  In fact, the Tesla is so smart, when in challenging driving situations, it will alert you to take over. If the alerts are ignored, the car will stop.

For Early Adopters:

For existing Tesla owners, the software update is available today.  As far as driving, hand-free into the sunset from San Francisco to Palo Alto.  Elon Musk says we have some time before that materializes:

“While truly driverless cars are still a few years away, Tesla Autopilot functions like the systems that airplane pilots use when conditions are clear. The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car.”

Watch Shibani talk more about the new self-driving features of the Model S on Huffington Post live, where she talks weekly about the latest in technology.  Join her here on Friday, October 16 at 10.15am. Log on here! And check back for a clip from the segment!