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Car and Driver: Tesla Offers Free One-Month Autopilot Trial to Owners


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2015 Tesla Model S P85D


Free software trials aren’t at all new, but one that can add semi-autonomous functionality to your vehicle certainly is novel. That’s exactly what Tesla is offering to its customers who didn’t opt for Autopilot when they purchased a Model S sedan or Model X crossover.


An image showing a prompt for a month-long trial of Autopilot first appeared on Reddit this past weekend, before making its rounds on automotive and tech sites. A Tesla spokesperson confirmed in an email that the automaker is offering a 30-day free trial of Autopilot to a majority of Model S and Model X owners.

That’s because every Model X, as well as every Model S built since September 2014, comes equipped with all the Autopilot-specific sensors and hardware already installed—those who pay for the $2500 option get the Autopilot software enabled on their car at delivery. Tesla owners also are able to activate the software post-delivery for $3000.

The free trial will enable autonomous steering, automatic lane changes, adaptive cruise control, and Tesla’s nifty gimmick, the Summon parking feature, for 30 days. Those who wish to keep the features permanently will have to pay $3000. While free trials for infotainment services have previously existed—think SiriusXM satellite radio and services like GM’s OnStar—Tesla’s over-the-air software update capability is the key to allowing owners to test a function that fundamentally alters the way their car drives. And Autopilot works well; a Model S won our four-car semi-autonomous comparison test earlier this year.


As much as Autopilot itself is a glimpse into the future, free trials and in-app purchases like this are themselves a likely preview of the future of in-car tech. As more cars become connected to the internet and over-the-air updating becomes more prevalent, the business model so common in smartphones and video games will be increasingly viable.


A version of this story originally appeared on Road & Track.


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