Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors has announced that every car it makes will now be fitted with the hardware to provide full self-driving ability.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk made the announcement during an online conference on 19th October – the company has been working to create autonomous driving cars for some time.
The hardware consists of eight surround cameras to provide a 360-degree visibility around the car for a range of 250 metres. The main forward camera has a 150-metre range, a narrow version 250 metres and a wide version 60 metres. Side cameras look forwards for 80 metres and rearwards for 100 metres, while a rear-view camera has a 50-metre range.
A series of 12 ultrasonic sensors are also fitted, Tesla stating that these have been updated to detect hard and soft objects at eight metres, almost twice the distance of the previous sensors.
A forward-facing radar has had its processing capability enhanced to see through heavy rain, fog, dust and according to Tesla even the car ahead. And a new onboard computer to process all of the information has more than 40 times the computing power of its predecessor.
Tesla states that the system will provide the car with a view of the world around it far greater than any human driver could achieve, seeing in every direction simultaneously and on wavelengths that go far beyond the human senses.
For now these self-driving features will not be active as Tesla continues to develop the technology – the company says it is undertaking millions of miles of real-world driving to ensure the systems are safer and more convenient to use.
As a result the new models will temporarily lack some of the standard safety features fitted to Teslas with first-generation Autopilot hardware. These include automatic emergency braking, collision warning, lane holding and active cruise control.
Tesla intends to bring the new safety features online as they are cleared for production use, using online updates that will ensure that owners of the cars always have the most up-to-date safety package available to them.
One of the first to be rolled out is expected to be an Enhanced Autopilot, that will match the car’s speed to traffic conditions, stay within a lane, automatically change lanes without the driver’s input, move from one motorway to another and exit it close to a driver’s destination, self-park and automatically enter and exit a garage when summoned by the driver.
Tesla expects the issue an over-the-air update in the USA, unlocking the Enhanced Autopilot, in December, if the system is approved by regulatory bodies.
All Model S and Model X vehicles currently in production now boast the new autonomous driving hardware, as will the forthcoming Model 3.
“Self-driving vehicles will play a crucial role in improving transportation safety and accelerating the world’s transition to a sustainable future,” says Tesla.
“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.”