December 23, 2019

CEO Elon Musk wasn’t kidding about Tesla releasing an important holiday software update. The automaker started pushing the update today, and it’s a massive one, with new voice commands, text message reading, and new Autopilot visualizations.

Last week, the CEO announced that Tesla is working on a “holiday update” that would include a “Full Self-Driving sneak preview,” new video games, and “a few more things.”

Those “few more things” are actually important features that many Tesla owners have been waiting for.

Tesla started pushing a new 2019.40.50 update to a select few owners ahead of an expected push to the wider fleet.

In the release notes, Tesla announced some “phone improvements,” including the ability to read and send message texts through Tesla’s voice command, which is something that Tesla has been lacking and owners have been asking for over the last years since Tesla doesn’t have Apple Carplay or Android Auto.

Tesla wrote in the notes:

You can now read and respond to text messages using your right scroll wheel button. When a new message is received press the right scroll wheel button to have your text message read out loud and press again to respond by speaking out loud. You will also be able to view messages as they come in via the ‘Cards’ section of the touchscreen.

To view messages that have been received while your phone is connected via Bluuetooth, tap the Application Launcher > Call > Messages. You can read and reply to a message by tapping an entry in the Messages list. To enable this feature, tap the Bluetooth icon on the top of the display, and enable ‘Sync Messages.’ Once enabled you can also choose to play a chime whenever a new text message is received by enabling ‘Chime on New Message.’

The automaker also added the ability to see favorite phone contacts on your car’s phone app.

In order for text message reading to work, Tesla notes that you need your notifications to be enabled on your phone. The company also says that it doesn’t work with group texts.

With the new text reading, Tesla is also revamping its voice commands:

Voice commands have been rebuilt to understand natural language. For this initial release, we focused on commands that minimize having to touch the screen so you can keep your eyes on the road.

The company lists some examples in the release notes:

  • Climate: “Set the temperature to 70” — “Turn on the passenger seat heater”
  • Vehicle: “Adjust my right mirror” — “Open the glovebox”
  • Navigation: “Let’s go to work” — “Where are the nearby supercharging stations?”
  • Media” “Play the Beatles” — “Search for Joe Rogan podcast”
  • Communication: “Call David Lewis” — “Send a text message to Evan”

Tesla also added new “Driving Visualization Improvements”:

The driving visualization can now display additional objects that include stop lights, stop signs and select road markings. The stop signs and stop light visualizations are not a substitute for an attentive driver and will not stop the car. To see those additional objects in your driving visualization, tap Controls > Autopilot > Full Self Driving Visualization Preview.

It looks like it’s what Musk was referring to as the “FSD sneak preview.”

The automaker has started pushing the update to the fleet, but as usual, keep in mind that it can take days to weeks before it reaches the entire fleet.

Also, Musk said that the “FSD sneak preview” will only work on cars with the latest FSD computer, which means cars that we were produced since April of this year or that received the retrofit.

Here are a few more things in Tesla’s 2019.40.50 holiday update:

Electrek’s Take

It’s a bit disappointing as an “FSD sneak preview.”

We already knew that the new driving visualizations were coming since Tesla added stop signs and traffic light 3D renders to its software earlier this month.

However, it kind of make sense when you think about it.

As I have been saying for a while, I see the driving visualization as some kind of confidence builder for Autopilot and eventually Tesla’s self-driving system.

Now that it is able to see and display traffic lights and stop signs, it will give us a sense of how it can handle intersections, which is an important step toward Tesla’s effort to deploy a full self-driving system.

If you get the update and have a HW3 car, please reach out (fred@9to5mac.com) with pictures or videos and your impressions. I am curious to see how accurate it is.

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