It might not be 'flying cars', but the future of automobiles just got a whole lot more interesting. Tesla has announced that every car it manufacturers -- including the entry-level Model 3 -- will come equipped with full self-driving features. What a time to be alive.
Earlier today, Tesla CEO Elon Musk made the surprise announcement that all cars being built by Tesla will include full self-driving features. This is a pretty big deal. Unlike the 'autopilot' technology in Tesla’s Model S and Model X, the new hardware will enable full self-driving autonomy -- this means the car will be able to get from A to B entirely unassisted by the human driver. (Or 'passenger', as the case may be.)
Naturally, it's going to take a while for this technology to make it onto Australian roads. Musk acknowledged that the company needs to complete validation of the software and get the required regulatory approval before the features can be rolled out. But the important thing is that it's there, ready for Tesla to activate in a future update.
If Tesla can be believed, its autonomous cars have a safety level that is at least twice that of an average human driver. If this can be conclusively proven, we imagine the required legislation will be approved by governments in a reasonable amount of time. (Voters tend to take a dim view of bureaucratic red tape that puts civilian lives at risk.)
The car's "brain" is powered by US chip manufacturer Nvidia which has been at the forefront of self-driving technology for some time. According to Musk, the Tesla-developed neural net is mostly hardware independent, however.
Here’s the full announcement from Tesla's website:
Self-driving vehicles will play a crucial role in improving transportation safety and accelerating the world’s transition to a sustainable future. Full autonomy will enable a Tesla to be substantially safer than a human driver, lower the financial cost of transportation for those who own a car and provide low-cost on-demand mobility for those who do not. We are excited to announce that, as of today, all Tesla vehicles produced in our factory – including Model 3 – will have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver. Eight surround cameras provide 360 degree visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range. Twelve updated ultrasonic sensors complement this vision, allowing for detection of both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system. A forward-facing radar with enhanced processing provides additional data about the world on a redundant wavelength, capable of seeing through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead. To make sense of all of this data, a new onboard computer with more than 40 times the computing power of the previous generation runs the new Tesla-developed neural net for vision, sonar and radar processing software. Together, this system provides a view of the world that a driver alone cannot access, seeing in every direction simultaneously and on wavelengths that go far beyond the human senses. Before activating the features enabled by the new hardware, we will further calibrate the system using millions of miles of real-world driving to ensure significant improvements to safety and convenience. While this is occurring, Teslas with new hardware will temporarily lack certain features currently available on Teslas with first-generation Autopilot hardware, including some standard safety features such as automatic emergency breaking, collision warning, lane holding and active cruise control. As these features are robustly validated we will enable them over-the-air, together with a rapidly expanding set of entirely new features. As always, our over-the-air software updates 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.
What do you guys think? Would you want a self-driving car for the daily commute to work or would you miss being in control of the wheel? Share your thoughts in the comments.