In an announcement delayed by three days, Tesla Motors said Wednesday all its vehicles now in production — including the upcoming Model 3 — will have hardware that is capable of fully-autonomous driving. According to Tesla, full self-driving capability will provide “a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver.”
So what does this new full autonomy-capable hardware consist of?
First, there are cameras and sensors to collect data. A complete 360-degree vision is provided by eight cameras around the car that have a range of up to 250 meters. Taking further the company’s strategy of reduced reliance on cameras alone, 12 ultrasonic sensors — whose range has been updated to “nearly twice the distance of the prior system” — detect both hard and soft objects. And then, there is a forward-facing radar that can see through dust, fog, rain and so on, as well as the vehicle ahead.
To process all this data, which is far more than a single person can collect — even if he or she could sense wavelengths beyond human abilities — the new onboard computer has more than 40 times the processing power of the previous generation.
However, while the Elon Musk-owned company calibrates the new system “to ensure significant improvements to safety and convenience,” Tesla vehicles with the new hardware will lack some safety features that are available in vehicles with the older hardware, the announcement said. Some of these features include automatic emergency braking, collision warning, lane holding and active cruise control.
As the company uses data from millions of real-world driving miles to validate the existing safety features, as well as entirely new ones made possible by the use of the new hardware, it will roll them out and activate them through over-the-air updates.
The Model X and Model S vehicles with the new hardware are already available for purchase.
The announcement was supposed to be made on Sunday, but according to Musk, it was delayed while the company worked on a video of a Tesla vehicle (presumably with the new hardware) “navigating a complex urban environment.”
Musk also plans to showcase a Tesla vehicle making a cross-country trip, from Los Angeles to New York, in fully autonomous mode, by the end of 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported.