20 October, 2016
While an exciting development for Tesla and self-driving vehicle enthusiasts, don't expect your new Model S or Model X (the Model 3 won't launch till 2018) to drive itself off the lot.
Electric auto maker Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O) said on Wednesday all vehicles in production, including Model 3, will have full self-driving hardware.
Today we got a major confirmation on a critical technology, self-driving or Autopilot will ship in all Tesla vehicles, including the Model 3.
The cameras will have a vision range of 250 meters and be reinforced by twelve updated ultrasonic sensors to detect objects at almost twice the prior system's distance.
These ultrasonic sensors have been updated from Tesla's previous design, giving them "nearly twice" the range of the earlier system.
New Teslas will also have forward-facing radar that can see through heavy rain, fog, dust and the auto in front of you, Tesla said. Rather than pulling back on its Autopilot self-driving systems after a fatal crash in May, Tesla is pressing forward with an even more advanced approach to autonomy.
Unlike self-driving cars built by rivals Google and Uber - which have large, bulky cameras and sensor systems mounted on the roof - Tesla's hardware will be integrated seamlessly into the body of the vehicle, chief executive Elon Musk said.
Tesla vehicles produced with the new set of hardware will be capable of Level 5 autonomy or fully self-driving. And, as is also customary, that announcement came via blog post. Tesla says it is implementing a new onboard computer will process the data and make driving decisions.
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But just because the autonomy package comes installed does not mean that customers will be able to enable self-driving on day one. The same will be true, to an even greater degree, of the new fully self-driving systems, he said.
"In writing some article that's negative, you effectively dissuade people from using an autonomous vehicle, you're killing people", Musk said during a press call Wednesday. A new "supercomputer in the auto", as Musk described it, will manage the system.
The company held an invitation-only briefing with journalists Wednesday where Musk reportedly admitted it is going to take a while for Tesla to completely validate the software and win regulatory approval to activate it.
Older Tesla vehicles without the additional cameras, sensors and upgraded processors would not be able to drive autonomously but their Autopilot software would continue to be improved, Musk said.
Tesla's Autopilot is still under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "The new hardware is what will enable self-driving, which is different to autopilot".
"I wish there was some other way to do it", said Musk.
About 373,000 pre-orders for the Model 3 have been placed, according to figures Tesla hasn't updated since May. That will involve having the system effectively running in the background but not actively controlling the vehicle.
Earlier this month, the NHTSA estimated 17,775 people died in USA from motor vehicle traffic crashes during the first half of this year, a 10 percent increase from the first half of 2015.