American automaker Tesla announced that all its new cars will have the necessary hardware needed for full self-driving capability.
In a recent press conference, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that his cars will have level 5 autonomy with the upgraded hardware. In a recently released video of the upgraded Tesla car, the company said, “The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself.”
To make Tesla’s cars fully automated, the company said they added the following four features:
1. New Surround Cameras
Eight surround cameras offer 360-degree visibility around the car and with up to 250 meters of range.
2. New Ultrasonic Sensors
Twelve updated ultrasonic sensors allow the vehicle to detect soft and hard objects at nearly two times the distance of the previous system.
3. Forward-Facing Radar
The forward-facing radar with improved processing offers supplementary data about the environment. This forward-facing radar is also capable of seeing through fog, dust, heavy rain and cars ahead.
4. New Onboard Computer
The new onboard computer offers more than 40 times the computing power than those previously used in Tesla’s cars. The company said this new onboard computer has neural net for vision, radar and sonar processing software.
Tesla added that its two car models – Model S and Model X – with the above-mentioned updated hardware are already in production, while Model 3 production is set to begin mid 2017.
It is unclear when these new cars with updated hardware will be available to the public. Tesla said, “Before activating the features enabled by the new hardware, we will further calibrate the system using millions of miles of real-world driving to ensure significant improvements to safety and convenience.”
Tesla’s new hardware update will definitely renew the race towards self-driving cars. Google announced that its self-driving cars have already driven more than 2 million miles and are currently out on the streets of Mountain View, California; Austin, Texas; Kirkland, Washington; and Metro Phoenix, Arizona. Ford, on its part, targets fully autonomous vehicles in 2021.
Tesla’s cars came under intense criticism with the first reported Tesla’s autopilot passenger death in Florida in May this year.
Preliminary report from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board showed that when the 2015 Tesla Model S collided with the 2014 Freightliner Cascadia truck tractor, the Tesla car was speeding at 74 mph – above the posted speed limit of 65 mph.
In a press conference held last Wednesday, the CEO of Tesla said that the unfortunate death of one autopilot passenger is nothing compared to the more than 1.2 million deaths annually as a result of car accidents.
Levels of Driving Automation
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), a U.S.-based, globally active professional association, identified six levels of driving automation. SAE describes the levels of driving automation in the following manner:
Level 0 (No Automation):
In Level 0, the execution of steering, acceleration, deceleration, monitoring of driving environment and fallback in case of system failure are all done by humans.
Level 1 (Driver Assistance):
In Level 1, steering, acceleration and deceleration are done by the human driver and the system. The monitoring and fallback are all controlled by the human driver. Some driving scenarios are, meanwhile, controlled by the system.
Level 2 (Partial Automation):
In Level 2, steering, acceleration and deceleration are done by the system. Both the monitoring and fallback are done by the human driver. Meanwhile, some driving scenarios are controlled by the system.
Level 3 (Conditional Automation):
In Level 3, the steering, acceleration, deceleration and monitoring are controlled by the system. At this level, the human driver intervenes or becomes the fallback in case of system failure. Some driving scenarios are controlled by the system.
Level 4 (High Automation)
In Level 4, steering, acceleration, deceleration, monitoring and fallback are all done by the system. Some driving scenarios, meanwhile, are done by the system.
Level 5 (Full Automation)
In Level 5, steering, acceleration, deceleration, monitoring, fall back and all driving scenarios are all done by the system.
With Tesla effectively committing to mainstream Level 5 autonomy by mid-2017, it is placing itself 4 years ahead of the plan made public by its closest US competitors.