Tesla has announced that all of its upcoming cars, including the Model 3, will be fitted with fully autonomous driving systems. These systems will be turned on in over-the-air updates as each of them passes safety metrics and regulatory approval, with the end product being a truly self-driving car for each Tesla owner.
Ever since Tesla introduced its Autopilot feature, which allowed the car to drive itself on freeways, the company has hinted that truly self-driving cars were in its future. Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, has consistently highlighted the benefits of autonomous vehicles, even saying that the limited implementation of Autopilot was still significantly safer than a human driver.
The new models from Tesla will feature many more sensors than their predecessors, including eight surround cameras for 360-degree visibility, 12 ultrasonic sensors, as well as radar. To process all that data, the company has started using a new onboard computer that’s 40 times more powerful than the ones used previously.
The company, alongside Musk, believes that the use of self-driving technology will greatly reduce the number of accidents on the road. That’s because the car’s computer never gets tired, bored, or distracted, and the car’s sensors have 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.
To show off the new technology, Tesla published a video with one of the new models driving itself on public roads and inside of a parking lot. The car, which still has a person inside it for most of the video “for legal reasons”, stops at traffic signs, yields for incoming traffic, and stops as pedestrians cross its path. Perhaps the most exciting part of the video comes at the very end when, inside Tesla’s parking lot, the driver gets out of the car, and directs the vehicle to go find a parking spot by itself. It is a bit surreal seeing the car wander around empty until it parallel parks in an open space.
Referring to this last part of the video, Musk took to Twitter to highlight how the car’s systems even identified a reserved parking spot and avoided it. Musk also explained that the owner can control the car from an app, summoning it to his position whenever he needs it. He said the car would eventually find its owner even “on the other side of the country”. Now that just sounds like a challenge that needs to happen. And it seemingly will, with Tesla reportedly wanting to show off a driverless trip across the US by the end of next year.
Of course, all of these developments are bound to bring out critics and skeptics of self-driving car technology. Tesla itself has been under some pressure earlier this year after one of its cars got into a fatal crash while the Autopilot was turned on. Musk however, preempting some of the possible criticism, said that the media is “killing people” by focusing on the Tesla fatal crash, but ignoring the 1.2 million yearly deaths that happen due to manual crashes.