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Tesla Autopilot neutered in Europe to meet new regulations

The changes already rolled out to Model 3 vehicles, and other Tesla cars are next.

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Autopilot is getting a lot more hands-on in Europe.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Tesla has begun to roll out software updates to European vehicles that significantly reduce the capability of its Autopilot system, in order to meet local regulations surrounding advanced driver assistance systems.

According to a Tuesday report from Electrek, citing European Tesla owners, the automaker has recently started to push updates to some Model S and Model X owners. These updates adhere to regulations on vehicle steering equipment the European Union set in 2017. Tesla Model 3 vehicles have already received updates to comply. 

Tesla didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

What it means for all Tesla owners in Europe, following the rollout to the Model S and Model X, is a major change to how Autopilot behaves. Everything from the Summon feature to Auto-Lane Changing is affected. The former requires owners to be 6 meters (19.6 feet) away, and no further, for the Summon feature to work now. 

As for the auto-lane change function, the entire process must be done in five seconds. If it's not, the Tesla will abort the lane change and return to its original lane. That may seem a tad unrealistic. If another driver hasn't sped up or slowed down to make room for the Tesla, Autopilot quickly becomes rather useless.

Perhaps the biggest change, and one that's sure to stir the pot, is the attention reminder. Now, Tesla cars will produce a reminder every 15 seconds for owners to place their hand on the wheel. The reminder only pings if the wheel doesn't detect a driver's hands. The luxury and promise of systems like Autopilot are to take hands off the wheel as much as possible in a safe manner. The argument can be made, however, that a lot of systems -- not just Tesla's -- overpromise.

Tesla said in release notes, quoted by Electrek, that it will keep fighting for regulations that allow full Autopilot functionality to return some day. For now, though, the electric carmaker has to play by the EU's rules.

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