The science fiction of self-driving cars in films like Minority Report, The Fifth Element, Total Recall, and I, Robot may no longer be Sci-Fi for long. Tesla just announced that all of its production model cars including the much awaited Model 3 will now include the Autopilot 2.0 Tesla Vision or autonomous driving hardware. On October 19, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced – as well as on the company blog – that all its vehicles now on the assembly line will have second generation full level 5 autonomous driving. This will include all older models still in production, the most awaited Model 3, and with the Model S and Model X that have been green lighted for mass production. The Model 3 all-electric vehicle with the new self-driving hardware suite will be priced at $35,000. Tesla changed its hardware suite from the original that it tested with a year ago. It now has fewer radar antennas and carries more cameras, which is why the suite is now called “Vision.”
From its level 4 version it jumped to providing 360º camera coverage for level 5. The new system can now see virtually around the car because of 8 cameras – 3 front-facing, better ultrasonic sensors, and 40 times more powerful onboard computer, the Nvidia GPU Titan supercomputer. The older version had only one camera. Each camera has a range of up to 250 meters or around 820 feet. CEO Elon Musk however clarified that the new hardware will not fully offer full autopilot capabilities since Tesla still needs a few more months of software testing and improvements. He estimates that by early 2018, full autonomy on the system can be given through the updates. In the meantime, the autonomous driving can still be utilized but only on a limited basis. It is advised that autonomous driving should still be avoided on very busy streets and freeways. Updating will be by stages beginning in 2017.
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Should purchasers wish for only a semi-autonomous system, they may downgrade to a level 3 or 4 system that will only be a $5,000 option with 4 cameras instead of 8. Tesla envisions that its self-driving cars will play a crucial role in improving transportation safety and to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy through its electric and hybrid cars. This is because Tesla is out to prove that self-driving cars are substantially safer since it eliminates the “human error” factors and also permanently removes such hazards such as drunk driving and reckless driving. It is hoped that in the future electric and self-driving cars will be much cheaper since it does away with the messy combustion engines and its polluting emissions, as well as having to apply and pass for a driver’s license. The new Model 3, Model S, and Model X are slated to be released in 2017, but not simultaneously. The Model 3 will be released first.