Tesla Motors is about to take another giant leap into the future. Not so long ago, the idea of a mainstream, self-driving car may have seemed like a very far-fetched concept, but Tesla appears to be ready to make it a reality.
Tesla, a California-based company founded in 2003, is already known for its cutting-edge technology and high-performance electric cars. The company currently offers Autopilot, a semi-autonomous driving feature, which was recently upgraded. Tesla now looks to be setting its sights even higher, aiming for full self-driving vehicles in the very near future.
On Wednesday, Tesla announced that all of its new vehicles will, in fact, be equipped with the ability to drive themselves. According to the Washington Post, this will include the Model 3, a more affordable Tesla vehicle that the company recently unveiled plans for this past spring. The Washington Post also points out that Tesla claims there are existing Model S and Model X vehicles that already have the new technology.
According to Wired, CEO Elon Musk says that the new Teslas will have “level 5 autonomy,” meaning that there will not be any interaction required from the person sitting behind the wheel. However, more testing is still needed, so people won’t be able to hop into a self-driving Tesla just yet.
Although the technology will be there, the system will not be enabled until a later point, the company says. Tesla’s goal appears to be for everything being ready to go by the end of next year, reports suggest.
Every new Tesla now comes with full, self-driving hardware capabilities https://t.co/Ep0nqqJo7x
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) October 20, 2016
In Tesla’s blog post, the company claims that a car with complete autonomy will be safer than one driven by a human driver, while also lowering the cost of transportation. The new cars will reportedly have eight surround cameras and 12 new ultrasonic sensors. The company also states that the new Teslas will have an onboard computer with more than “40 times the computing power” of the old system. The new features will provide a view that a human driver simply would not be able to achieve by his or herself, claims the company.
“It’s basically a supercomputer in a car,” Musk says in the Wired article.
Tesla has also released a new video, which shows a car operating all by itself. Indeed, a self-driving Tesla is now a real thing.
While self-driving Teslas are certainly an interesting idea and make for a fun conversation, it is good to know that more measures will be taken before they are active on the road. While Tesla is clearly aiming to provide a safer mode of transportation, and Musk has argued that autonomous cars will actually be far safer, the thought of getting into a vehicle that operates on its own may take a little bit of time to adjust to.
— WIRED (@WIRED) October 20, 2016
Concerns have also been raised over Tesla’s current Autopilot feature. Consumer Reports has been worried that Autopilot may give drivers the false sense that the cars are driving themselves more than they actually are, thus leading the way for some to become nonchalant behind the wheel. Consumer Reports believed changes needed to be made to the system back in July, saying that the technology was “too much autonomy too soon.”
At the time, a couple of well-publicized incidents had occurred, one of which claimed the life of Joshua Brown in Florida. Brown was reportedly using Autopilot in his Tesla Model S, when he collided with a tractor trailer that was making a left turn in front of him. Due to neither the driver, nor Autopilot being able to detect “the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly-lit sky,” Tesla later explained that the brake was not applied, therefore causing the accident.
Less than two weeks ago, Consumer Reports claimed that although the company’s updated version of Autopilot was an improvement, issues still remained. Among the new features include additional warnings now being given for drivers to keep their hands on the wheel.
While Musk says that the self-driving features may be fully in action by the end of next year, other major automobile companies are further behind. Per Wired, companies such as Ford and Mercedes may join Tesla later on, with a goal of offering self-driving technology in their vehicles between 2020 and 2025.
Tesla’s other competitors also include Google and Uber, who have been developing similar technology.
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