Elon Musk is still pushing to make his company’s electric cars drive themselves, even if Autopilot has become a dirty word after several highly publicized crashes. As of today, all new Tesla models will be built with more advanced hardware that will – eventually – allow for fully autonomous driving.
The updates will give the Model X, Model S, and Model 3 the ability to drive themselves “at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver,” the company said in a blog post. The fully autonomous functionality will be enabled by 12 new ultrasonic sensors that can detect obstacles at almost twice the distance of current Tesla Autopilot sensors; eight cameras that provide a 360-degree view around the car; a new forward-facing radar sensor that can detect obstacles even in precipitation; and a new computer that Tesla says is 40 times more powerful than the old Autopilot processor.
“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,” Tesla said.
The Tesla Model X and Model S are already being produced with these upgrades, and the Model 3 will receive them when the more affordable Tesla eventually begins production. But there’s a huge catch: Tesla is still validating the software that goes along with this updated hardware. New software will be sent to cars over-the-air, but until then, new Tesla models with this hardware won’t have the same semi-autonomous functionality as existing Autopilot-equipped vehicles.
“Teslas with new hardware will temporarily lack certain features currently available on Teslas with first-generation Autopilot hardware,” the company said, “including some standard safety features such as automatic emergency breaking, collision warning, lane holding and active cruise control.”
In other words, all new Teslas in production now won’t have any of the semi-autonomous functionality available on current cars until the software is released at an as-yet-unconfirmed date.
According to Road & Track, it will not be possible to retrofit the new hardware in older Tesla models. The self-driving suite will be an $8,000 option, compared to $3,000 for the current Autopilot system.
Self-driving vehicles will play a crucial role in improving transportation safety and accelerating the world’s transition to a sustainable future. Full autonomy will enable a Tesla to be substantially safer than a human driver, lower the financial cost of transportation for those who own a car and provide low-cost on-demand mobility for those who do not.
We are excited to announce that, as of today, all Tesla vehicles produced in our factory – including Model 3 – will have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver. Eight surround cameras provide 360 degree visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range. Twelve updated ultrasonic sensors complement this vision, allowing for detection of both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system. A forward-facing radar with enhanced processing provides additional data about the world on a redundant wavelength, capable of seeing through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead.
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.
Before activating the features enabled by the new hardware, we will further calibrate the system using millions of miles of real-world driving to ensure significant improvements to safety and convenience. While this is occurring, Teslas with new hardware will temporarily lack certain features currently available on Teslas with first-generation Autopilot hardware, including some standard safety features such as automatic emergency breaking, collision warning, lane holding and active cruise control. As these features are robustly validated we will enable them over-the-air, together with a rapidly expanding set of entirely new features. As always, our over-the-air software updates will keep customers at the forefront of technology and continue to make every Tesla, including those equipped with first-generation Autopilot and earlier cars, more capable over time.