Tesla Motors Announces All-Wheel Drive Model S & New Safety Tech

Tesla teaser
Elon Musk tweeted this teaser image on Oct. 1. (Image credit: Twitter | Elon Musk)

After more than a week of anticipation, Tesla Motors finally revealed "the D" — and it doesn't stand for driverless, as had been widely rumored.

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's electric car company will now offer all-wheel-drive versions of the Tesla Model S, including one high-end option that can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in a little more than 3 seconds, USA Today reported. That speed puts Tesla's Model S among some of the fastest sedans.

Tesla will also introduce new autonomous safety features, including technology that can help the car park itself, and a feature that can nudge the vehicle over a lane when the driver hits the turn signal. The car will also be equipped with sensors that can read speed-limit signs and make appropriate adjustments, USA Today reported. [11 Odd and Intriguing Smart Home Technologies ]

Musk said the new safety features will be more "autopilot" than "autonomous" for now. "It's not at the level where you could safely fall asleep and arrive at your destination," he said during an event held tonight (Oct. 9), in Hawthorne, California, to unveil the new Model S versions.

The superfast Tesla Model S, dubbed the AWD P85D, reportedly will be delivered to customers in December, while the other models, AWD 60D and AWD 85D, will be ready in February, according to USA Today.

Musk revealed the new features tonight at the Hawthorne Airport in Los Angeles County. The announcement had been hotly anticipated ever since Musk tweeted on Oct. 1: "About time to unveil the D and something else."

Those nine words drove up Tesla's stock and fueled feverish speculation about what the company would reveal. Would it be driverless features? All-wheel drive? The mystery Musk cultivated around the announcement earned him comparisons to Steve Jobs, the late Apple co-founder who popularized suspense-filled product launches.

Musk built his fortune in the early days of PayPal. When that online payment system was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion in October 2002, Musk used his profits to launch his commercial space venture, SpaceX, that same year. SpaceX is also having a big year; the company was just awarded a $2.6 billion contract from NASA to fly astronauts to the International Space Station aboard its Dragon capsule by 2017.

In 2003, Musk co-founded Tesla Motors, which went public in 2010. Earlier this year, Musk announced that Tesla Motors is making its patents free and open source, in an effort to advance new electric car technologies.

In July, Tesla officials said they hope to deliver about 35,000 Model S sedans this year, and have set a goal to build more than 60,000 vehicles in 2015. For comparison, Ford Motor Company sold more than 2 million vehicles in 2013.

Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescienceFacebook Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Megan Gannon
Live Science Contributor
Megan has been writing for Live Science and Space.com since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.