Posted on October 20, 2016 by Matt Pressman
Tesla Motors [NASDAQ: TSLA] says that self-driving cars are coming soon — starting with a suite of self-driving hardware components that will enable fully autonomous vehicles for Tesla moving forward. This will include the Model 3. As reported in The Verge*, the new hardware includes: "8 cameras with 360-degree viewing at up to 820 feet of distance, as well as 12 ultrasonic sensors that can detect both hard and soft objects. A new forward-facing radar helps see through rain, fog, and dust... [and] Musk says that the 'Tesla Neural Net' doesn’t require any third party hardware sensors, and that it’s based on the Nvidia Titan GPU."
Above: Tesla Model S will soon be equipped with hardware capable of Level 5 vehicle automation (Source: Wired)
Just how advanced is this new hardware? Musk says that it’s 40 times more powerful than the last Tesla computer, “it’s basically a supercomputer in a car,” he said. “We go from one camera to eight cameras,” Musk said. Three of them are forward cameras, for redundancy, and the rest provide “360 coverage” for the rest of the car. The new Teslas will also have 360-ultrasonic sonar. Also, Musk said the hardware will be fully capable of “Level 5 autonomy,” a big step forward.
Above: The five levels of driving automation (Source: Vox)
When will all this occur? “The full autonomy [hardware] update will be standard on all Tesla vehicles from here on out,” Musk says. But, Tesla will need to “further calibrate the system using millions of miles of real-world driving." Tesla also noted that self-driving features will be rolled out over time via, "over-the-air software updates [which] will keep customers at the forefront of technology and continue to make every Tesla, including those equipped with first-generation Autopilot and earlier cars, more capable over time."
Above: Tesla's advanced self-driving capabilities with new hardware (Source: TechCrunch via Tesla)
How about safety? Wall Street Journal reported that Musk noted on the media conference call that, "“It will take us some time into the future to complete validation of the software and to get the required regulatory approval, but the important thing is that the foundation is laid for the cars to be fully autonomous at a safety level we believe to be at least twice that of a person, maybe better.” Via Twitter*, Musk released the video (see below), in which he notes, "Tesla drives itself (no human input at all) thru urban streets to highway to streets, then finds a parking spot."
Above: Self-driving Tesla Model X demonstration video (Source: Tesla)
Will we get a more comprehensive look at all this happening on a longer drive? Yes. According to TechCrunch, Musk stated on his press call: "Our goal is, and I feel pretty good about this goal, that we’ll be able to do a demonstration drive of full autonomy all the way from LA to New York, from home in LA to let’s say dropping you off in Time Square in New York, and then having the car go park itself, by the end of next year, without the need for a single touch, including the charger.” Musk later tweeted that this would be capable, "using the automated snake charger." A GIF of the video he provided is below and when questioned on it, Musk responded, "no, that's real."
Above: A look at what Tesla's robotic "snake" charger could resemble at a Supercharger near you (Source: The Verge)
Musk also tweeted, "When you want your car to return, tap Summon on your phone. It will eventually find you even if you are on the other side of the country." Wow. Furthermore, Electrek reports on a clause on Tesla's website which states, "that ride sharing will only be possible on the Tesla Network [which] is interesting, though, and [it] certainly seems like Tesla is throwing down a gauntlet on autonomous ridesharing... Presumably, when the driver is taken out of the equation, Tesla considers their algorithm the driver, and wants a share of the revenue generated – hence why they are pushing ‘Tesla Network’."
Above: Ridesharing capabilities via the 'Tesla Network' could disrupt the likes of Uber and Lyft (Image: Valuewalk)
In any event, this is big news, autonomous ride-sharing Teslas are coming — we look forward to keeping you posted on the latest news and updates as Tesla moves closer and closer to achieving a fully self-driving car.