Tesla announced Wednesday that all of its cars going forward, including the Model 3, would be equipped with hardware that will allow for Level 5 self-driving capability.
The push positions Tesla nicely to win the race to have cars that can control themselves with "no human intervention", according to the SAE rating system by which levels of autonomy are scaled. "I think that's probably unexpected by most that this is happening right now".
In April, Tesla unveiled plans for its Model 3 vehicle, its cheapest to date, due for release next year. This all builds into Tesla's networked "neural net" for vision, sonar and radar processing software. Speaking at a press-only Q&A, Elon Musk revealed that the new technology will be powered by Nvidia's new Titan graphics processing unit (GPU), or what he referred to as a supercomputer. "So initially a Hardware 1 vehicle will be better than a Hardware 2 auto". Musk says that the this system will soon be at least twice as safe as a human driver.
One of the things I should mention that frankly has been quite disturbing to me is the degree of media coverage of Autopilot crashes, which are basically nearly none relative to the media coverage of the 1.2 million people that die every year in manual crashes.
The feature-set initially will be disabled for the first couple of months.
Currently, Autopilot costs $3000, but Musk confirmed that the full self-driving suite will cost $8000.
Musk added the new hardware will enable "self-driving", which is different than autopilot. That vehicle will now also include the new hardware.
When the vehicles can drive at what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calls Level 5 - without any human intervention -is unclear. "Autopilot is a word that's been in use for half a century; it doesn't represent self-driving in the same way that autopilot in a plane makes it self-flying". This will help the cars deal with multiple freeways and onramps.
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If we read between the lines, this means the hardware will be standard, however it doesn't mean the feature is standard.
The eight-camera system consists of three forward-facing cameras ahead of the rearview mirror, two mounted in the B-pillars, two side-rear units in the turn-signal repeaters, and a rear-facing lens above the license plate. And there's 360-degree camera coverage. 40 times the computing power! It will be capable of 12 trillion operations per second. The larger volume of information is processed via a computer capable of 12 trillion operations per second, which Musk calls "basically a supercomputer in a auto".
The new cars will also have the next generation of ultra sonic sonar, which will also operate 360 degrees around the vehicle. "There's also other things like the Global Positioning System is more accurate".
Tesla will build self-driving technology into all the electric cars it makes, running it in "shadow" mode to gather data regarding whether it is safer than having people in control. "It's not up to us it's up to the regulators". "Hopefully in the US things don't become balkanized so the rules are different in every state".
"It will take us some time ... to complete validation of the [level five autonomous] software ... and [get] the required regulatory approval", admitted Musk when quizzed on how soon people could expect to pay no attention to the road or what the auto is doing.
In a press conference Wednesday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said cars now in production will be equipped with the necessary hardware - including eight camera sensors and 12 ultrasonic sensors - to allow for fully autonomous driving.
Musk said a Tesla automobile would soon amount to being "a supercomputer in a auto", referencing new vision, sonar and radar processing software that is run by a computing system 40 times more powerful than what Tesla first introduced. Together, this system provides a view of the world that a driver alone can not access, seeing in every direction simultaneously and on wavelengths that go far beyond the human senses.
"This hardware, combined with Tesla's existing over-the-air update capabilities, will allow the automaker to continue improving its self-driving capabilities with minimal inconvenience for owners", said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book.
The AutoPilot feature supports adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance, giving the cars almost self-driving capability.