In a definitive step towards fully autonomous driving, Tesla has introduced a new feature for its Autopilot system, allowing its cars to recognise traffic lights and stop signs and slow down to a stop. As reported by Electrek, it’s being rolled out across all vehicles fitted with Autopilot (standard since last year) in the US as part of the 2020.12.6 software update, having been trialled by “early access” customers since last month.

In its release notes of the update, Tesla writes that the feature will “slow the car for all detected traffic lights, including green, blinking yellow, and off lights,” when Traffic-Aware Cruise Control (adaptive cruise control) or Autosteer (lane centring assist) is activated. If it detects a red light or a stop sign, the car will come to a stop after notifying the driver.

For now, the driver will have to be the one to get the car going again when it’s safe to do so, either by pushing the gear selector down or by briefly pressing the accelerator. The feature is still in beta, so the feature will be programmed to be conservative at first, slowing down often and avoiding turning through junctions; Tesla says it will control the car more naturally once the company learns from the fleet.

As is usual for these driver assistance systems, the driver must continue to pay full attention and be ready to stop the car themselves. This is because the feature is not guaranteed to stop the car at all traffic lights, and in fact Tesla specifically stated the limitations of the system in a leaked manual, including pedestrian and railroad crossings, toll booths, temporary traffic lights, give way signs and other lights and signs.

The new feature follows the timeline set by CEO Elon Musk, who said earlier this month that it would roll out the system in the US “in a few weeks” and a worldwide release in the third quarter of the year. The delay for the latter would allow Tesla to adapt for the variations in traffic regulations in each country, he said.