Tesla Announces Massive Upgrades To Autopilot System, Promises Fully Autonomous Demonstration Next Year

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Tesla announced today that they will be adding advanced self-driving capabilities into all of their new cars and that every car will be capable of Level 5 fully autonomous driving. That is massive news for the self-driving industry and positions Tesla at the forefront of this tectonic change in the auto industry.

There is a small caveat, though.

None of these features are going to be activated for some time yet. In fact, Elon Musk also said that the autonomous driving software would be running in shadow mode, racking up millions of miles and quantitatively proving the safety advantage self-driving cars have over human drivers.

The way this ‘shadow mode’ will work is that the self-driving software will continue to take decisions it would have while in control without them actually affecting anything. This should theoretically allow for a direct comparison between the driving capabilities of the software and humans across a large data set.

Musk hopes that this data will be enough to convince regulators and push ahead a uniform set of rules for self-driving cars across the United States.

The hardware that is being included all new Tesla cars is also pretty impressive. It is based on the Nvidia Titan GPU and is 40 times more powerful than the last computer. It also jumps in leaps and bounds in terms of the actual equipment on board. Tesla is going from 1 camera mounted on the car to 8 cameras mounted across the car, 12 ultrasonic sonars for 360-degree coverage and a new forward facing radar that helps the car navigate in low visibility conditions like fog, rain or snowstorms.

The system is powered by a ‘supercomputer’ in the car according to Elon Musk.

In usual Tesla fashion, all of the hardware will be assembled into the car without compromising any of the aesthetics and clean lines, something that we know Musk is very particular about. When questioned about the possibility of selling this system as a kit to other car manufacturers, Musk denied that it was a part of Tesla’s plans.

Musk also made an exciting promise that a fully Autonomous Tesla would drive from Los Angeles to New York by 2017 end. That puts pressure on other companies like Ford and Volvo which were promising fully autonomous cars by 2021.

If Elon Musk is able to pull this off and be able to convince the regulators about the merits of self-driving through hard data along the way then he may have pulled the self-driving future much closer to us than anyone could have ever imagined.

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