Article Source TheGuardian
Tesla announced on Wednesday that from now on all of its electric cars will be built with the components required to turn them into fully autonomous vehicles at a later date. Now chief executive, Elon Musk, has released a video showing what that really means.
The video shows a Tesla Model X driving out of a garage, picking up a human driver – who is required to be in the driving seat for the car to legally self-drive in the US – and then driving itself around some public roads, navigating junctions and highways before returning to a parking lot, letting out the human driver and then going off to park itself.
It’s an impressive feat for a car that shows no visible signs of the typical paraphernalia required to pull off the stunt. Google’s car, for instance, has a large spinning lidar on the top and various other visible signs of automation.
Musk said that the release of the video was the cause of Tesla’s delay announcing the inclusion of the eight cameras, 12 ultrasonars and radar being embedded in each new Tesla car.
Talking about the video, Musk said: “When searching for parking, the car reads the signs to see if it allowed to park there, which is why it skipped the disabled spot.”
The Tesla chief executive also said that a software update to enable self-driving beyond what is currently enabled with the company’s Autopilot wasn’t possible because “retrofitting to full self-driving hardware is very difficult. The cost delta [difference] is more than buying a new car. I wish it weren’t.”
Tesla has been bullish on its ability to produced technically superior cars and update them with software giving them new features, including semi-autonomous driving functionality, releasing its Autopilot software under a so-called beta tag.
This attitude, which is markedly different to traditional automotive manufacturing, has ruffled feathers with some concerned about the release of unproven automation. Germany recently told Tesla to stop the use of the word Autopilot within its marketing and reminded existing Tesla owners that they must have full attention on the road at all times when behind the wheel, even with driving aids active.
The death in May of a Tesla driver using the company’s existing Autopilot system also prompted an investigation by safety regulators.
While self-driving cars are evidently capable of piloting themselves around public roads most of the time, the times when unpredictable situations occur and the cars must take action are still areas of concern. Legislation is also far behind allowing more than basic testing on public roads in most places, meaning self-driving cars owned and operated by members of the public are years away.
But with the announcement of the bundling of self-driving hardware into every new Tesla, and demonstrations of fully autonomous driving, the electric car company has placed another stake in the ground that could put it ahead of both technology companies such as Google and automotive manufacturers such as Ford, Mercedes and Audi.
Article Source TheGuardian