On Wednesday, Tesla announced that all its new vehicles — including the forthcoming Model 3 mass-market car — will be equipped with an extensive suite of self-driving technologies that will enable them to be fully autonomous.
It could take a while for actual full autonomy to arrive.
Tesla said in a statement that it will require millions of miles of “real-world driving to ensure significant improvements to safety and convenience” before the “Hardware 2” tech, as CEO Elon Musk called it, will be enabled.
But this is a major potential step forward for Tesla, as the Next Big Thing story in transportation shifts from electric cars to cars that can drive themselves. Rather than pulling back on its Autopilot self-driving systems after a fatal crash in May, Tesla is pressing forward with an even more advanced approach to autonomy.
It won’t come cheap. Musk said on a conference call with reporters that the “higher price to pay” will be $8,000 to activate Hardware 2, versus $3,000 to activate the current Autopilot system.
New hardware consisting of:
- 8 surround cameras provide 360 degree visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range
- 12 updated ultrasonic sensors complement this vision, allowing for detection of both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system
- and 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
will also require some serious computing power — 40 times more than Teslas are currently using. A new “supercomputer in the car,” as Musk described it, will manage the system.
This computer will be separate from the computers that control other vehicles systems, such as Tesla’s large infotainment touchscreen, for obvious reasons.
“You don’t want to be crashing the car because you went to the wrong website,” Musk said.