From today, every Tesla vehicle produced has the capability to be a self-driving car. Amazing thing to write really, when you think about it. But what does it mean? Has something gone to Elon Musk’s head or is he really ready to lead this revolution.
They’re not kidding either, it’s not April 1. Every car that leaves the factory (Model S, Model X and the soon to be produced Model 3) from now has a whole bunch of in-built hardware that in time can be utilised by software upgrades to enable more and more features for the Tesla vehicle. (Enabling it at point of purchase or even later comes at a cost of over $4,000)
This is not new. Tesla have been adding sensors and cameras for some time, their vehicles may all look the same over years but there have been some subtle improvements in hardware along with major software upgrades.
Tesla’s process of upgrading all the cars they’ve sold using a simple internet connection in the car means that a Tesla purchased years ago may have all or most of the same capabilities as one purchased today.
So what’s it really mean?
Well Tesla have a view on what it takes to be autonomous. What technology must exist, so they’ve added sensors and hardware to allow for a total of eight surround cameras, twelve ultrasonic sensors as well as forward facing radar and probably much more.
While all that stuff today does basic tasks, when combined with a new onboard computer which has 40 times the processing power of the previous generation you’ve got a car that could do amazing things once the software is written, tested and deployed.
More importantly? It needs to be approved by the government. Not ours, not California, but each government in any area you hope to use it. That’s going to be a while off:)
But, full credit for being ready – leading the pack.
However, I suspect a lot of rough roads ahead. Looking at Ford’s program for self-driving cars, they have a range of technology also, including LiDAR which allows the car to “see” what’s around it. And critically, every road it drives needs to be mapped in advance of the cars making any trips there. This is a very different approach, and I suspect one that regulators will look more favourably apon.
Time will tell – but geez it’s an exciting transition of technology to be alive to witness.