Tesla’s latest product announcement has landed, bringing news that all new cars rolling off the production line as of this week at the EV maker’s factory – including the lower-cost Model 3 – will have full self-driving capability “at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver.”
The comprehensive upgrade to the electric vehicle range spans across both software and hardware – the latter including eight surround cameras providing 360 degree visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range.
The cameras are complemented by 12 updated ultrasonic sensors, that can detect both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system.
On top of this, Tesla has included 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.”
Processing all of this is a “new onboard computer” that is said to have 40x the grunt of the previous model, and runs the new Tesla-developed “neural net for vision, sonar and radar processing software.”
Together, says Tesla, “this system provides a view of the world that a driver alone cannot access,” seeing in every direction at once and “on wavelengths that go far beyond the human senses.”
Presumably this includes large white tractor trailers driving against a brightly lit sky. For those not convinced, Tesla says it will “further calibrate the system using millions of miles of real-world driving” before the new autopilot software is activated in new cars, to ensure “significant improvements to safety and convenience.”
Until this is done, the company says new Teslas with the new hardware will temporarily lack certain features currently available on older Teslas with first-generation Autopilot hardware, including some standard safety features like 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,” the Tesla update says.
“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.”
So to recap, the new autopilot hardware is on all cars produced by Tesla starting from earlier this week. The software, meanwhile, will be gradually introduced, reaching level 3 autonomy in the coming months and level 4 and 5 should follow for full autonomy by 2018.
“Self-driving vehicles will play a crucial role in improving transportation safety and accelerating the world’s transition to a sustainable future,” the Tesla team say in their post.
“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.”