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Instant Analysis: Tesla's Autopilot Announcement Bumped to Next Week

By Daniel Sparks – Sep 2, 2016 at 4:09PM

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Tesla's driver-assist announcement gets delayed after a SpaceX rocket exploded on the launch pad.

What happened?

On Wednesday morning, electric-car maker Tesla Motors (TSLA 0.08%) said it would announce "major improvements" to its driver assist technology, Autopilot, later that day. But Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter on Thursday it won't make the announcement until next week.

Model S. Image source: Tesla Motors.

"Finishing Autopilot blog," Musk said, "postponed to end of weekend."

The update from Musk came shortly after SpaceX, another company where Musk is chairman and CEO, faced a major setback when its Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launch pad, destroying a payload valued at nearly $200 million, along with the Falcon 9 booster. 

"Loss of Falcon vehicle today during propellant fill operation," Musk said on Twitter on Thursday. "Originated around upper stage oxygen tank. Cause still unknown. More soon."

Does it matter?

If Tesla's update for Autopilot truly does include "major improvements," it could play a key role in boosting the value proposition for the company's vehicles and addressing concerns about the driver assist system after a fatal crash occurred earlier this year while the feature was activated.

Based on what Musk said on Twitter earlier this week, the update does sound substantial. The improvements, he said, will be achieved "through advanced processing of radar signals," indicating Tesla has found a way to get more out of the Autopilot vehicles built into its vehicle fleet.

As Tesla ramps up vehicle production and prepares to brings its Model 3 to market late next year, steps forward in Tesla's Autopilot technology are important to support continued growth in demand. Tesla aims to boost annual vehicle production from about 50,000 vehicles last year to 500,000 units 2018.

Daniel Sparks owns shares of Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla Motors. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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