On Tuesday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk spoke at NVidia’s developer conference in Silicon Valley.
In an interview with Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of the tech and gaming company, Musk compared the drivers of today to the elevator operators of yesteryear, according to the Verge.
Musk’s point is that driving cars is on the way out. Driverless cars are on the way in.
“The car will get smarter and smarter with the current hardware suite,” he said (NVidia liveblogged the event).
But there are challenges. “Even with just what we have, we’ll make huge progress in autonomy,” Musk said. “We can make car steer itself on freeway, do lane changes. Autonomy is about what level of reliability and safety we want. But with the current hardware suite, it can’t drive safely at 30MPH, with children playing. To solve that, we need a bigger sensor suite and more computing power.”
Tesla has added a suite of what it calls “autopilot” features to its Model S sedan. These enable the car to do a bit of early stage self-driving, although the age of the fully autonomous vehicle is a ways off.
But it’s also probably closer than anyone thinks.
Musk is already trying to put himself in this mindset, going so far as to tell Huang that when true driverless technology hits the road, society will need to “outlaw driving cars.” Cars with error-prone drivers will be considered too dangerous, in a world of sophisticated artificial intelligence.
A bold statement for a guy who, you know, sells cars for a living.
Interestingly, cars that look nothing like today’s autos and that don’t travel at high speed could be the future — think Google’s self-driving prototype podmobile, shown below
. Lighter, slower cars would be safer than the heavy, fast machines we have now.
But as Musk noted, we have literally miles to go before we get to this new environment for mobility. He noted at the NVidia conference that billions of vehicles worldwide must first be replaced by autonomous cars and trucks.
And the most precarious operating situation for the current generation of self-driving cars isn’t the freeway, with its relatively stable high speeds, but the low-speed urban environment, with its many obstacles both human and non-human.
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