Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, revealed on Wednesday that the Tesla cars currently in production, including the more affordable, mass produced Model 3, can be purchased with the capability to enable both level 4 & 5 autonomous driving once software is readily available.
Make no mistake, the new cars will not be able to drive themselves yet and it could still be as far as 5 – 10 years before we see that available to the public. Although the cars will inhibit the computing power to be able to run level 5 autonomous driving, the software that will make such thing a reality still isn’t completed.
“The foundation is onboard to bring full autonomy,” CEO Elon Musk told the media in a phone call.
Full Autopilot – Level 5 Autonomy
Level 5 autonomy when ready, will be able to drive you from one destination to another without any driver input at all. All as easy as inputting your destination into a GPS, the level 5 autonomy will drive you through harsh traffic conditions, along highways, through stop signs, red lights and school zones all without (hopefully) crashing into anything. Upon arriving at your destination, the car will drop you off and find itself a park.
As the Tesla Team have explained. The car will have 8 surround view cameras on the outside of the car providing 360 degrees of visibility with a range of up to 250 meters. These camera’s will work in unity with 12 ultrasonic sensors which will allow for the detection of both soft and hard objects at nearly twice the range compared to the previous system. An enhanced processing radar will sit at the front of the car to provide further information about the world on a redundant wavelength, capable of seeing through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car in front of you.
“To make sense of all of this data, a new onboard computer with more than 40 times the computing power of the previous generation runs the new Tesla-developed neural net for vision, sonar and radar processing software. Together, this system provides 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”.
At this stage, Elon believes that the level 5 full autonomy will be ready within 2 -3 years. This would reconfirm Tesla as the leader in driverless car technology as several competitors have been gaining traction along side Tesla in the past year. However, experts at The Verge aren’t buying it and have criticized such comments as they believe that 5 – 10 years is a more realistic time frame.
Whether or not the technology is there, further implications have arisen over the past couple of days with claims that government policy will not move as quickly as Elon Musk may like it too. Before allowing the use of driverless cars, the law must permit it. And this could prove to be difficult as former NHTSA official believes regulations could slow Tesla’s technology by years.
“So one of the things we are going to see is we will see the technology be ready here probably in a couple of years, but we are really talking five, six, seven, maybe even more years before all the regulations come in, before the states play a role in it.”
Enhance Autopilot – Level 4 Autonomy
Although the release of the actual software for level 5 autonomy is still a fair while away. The level 4 autonomy, Elon believes is just around the corner.
Level 4 or ‘Enhanced autopilot’ as they are calling it should be readily available in the coming 2 – 3 months if Elon Musk’s prediction is correct. The software will obviously not contain the ability to completely drive itself the way that level 5 will. However as Tesla have announced, the “enhanced autopilot” will have additional features such as Traffic Aware Cruise Control (TACC) and auto steer on the highway. The software will be able to match the car’s speed to to immediate traffic conditions, change lanes without driver input, drive from one freeway to another and even exit the free way once your destination is near. Further more and what is probably the coolest feature is the ability to ‘summon’ your car to pick you up and leave your car to park itself.
Tesla Driverless Car Technology Price
Against what was previously believed by most, the ability to switch your car into level 4 or level 5 autonomous driving will cost you a little bit extra. To add the capability for level 4 “enhanced autopilot” you are required to fork out an additional $5000 upon purchase or $6000 to have it added at a later date. Further more to add the capability of level 5 “full Autopilot”, it will cost you an additional $3000 upon purchase or $4000 after. You are required to have level 4 before purchasing level 5 so all in all Tesla’s self driving car hardware will run you $8,000 – $10, 000.
Even though it is only a small fraction compared to the cost of the car itself. As well as the fact that you will most likely make a good part of it back not paying for petrol. It seems a little odd that Tesla would add an aditional price tag on the software that the car is designed to have. Rather than either incorporating the cost of such hardware into the price or more simply just increasing the price of the car. What seems even weirder, is that someone would consider buying a Tesla and skipping out on the autonomous driving technology.
You would have thought that it would have just been included and if need be to increase the cost of the car by that amount.
Automatic Robot Tesla Charger
On another note, a Tesla Model S owner in the U.S has created for himself an electric charger that will find and plug itself in to the Charge Port on the side of a Tesla car. Although only a prototype, the robotic arm seems to have no problem in plugging itself into the Model S Tesla as can be seen in the below video.
The Verge have described it as “Very Creepy” and have given it a score of 6.5 on the “stuff of nightmares” scale of 1 to 10. While BGR have said it looks like a “scary snake robot out of a post apocalyptic sci fi movie” Personally the “Snake Charger” as it has been called looks a lot like one of ‘Doctor Oc’s eight robotic arm from the 2004 hit “Spider Man 2”. Here is a video of the prototype charger in action, tweeted by Tesla.
Charger prototype finding its way to Model S.t.co/L9E4MR642G
— Tesla (@TeslaMotors) August 6, 2015
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