Yesterday, after a brief delay and weeks of teasing, Tesla Motors said it will equip all of its new vehicles with the hardware needed forÂ fully autonomous driving. Starting yesterday, the technology comes standardÂ on everyÂ model, including the upcomingÂ Model 3 sedan.
But that doesn’t mean youÂ can use it anytime soon.Â
Tesla Motors announced that every new car coming out of its Fremont plantÂ will possess the eight cameras, ultrasonic sensors, and updated GPS required for the vehicle to operate without a human driverÂ â€” but without the software needed to activate the system. At least, not before some additional testing and regulator approval.
TheÂ Wall Street Journal reports that company CEO Elon Musk hopesÂ to show off this hardware on a driverless cross-country road trip by the end of next year. That’s something the previous incarnations of Tesla’s assisted driving systemÂ couldn’t dream of. “ItÂ will do this without the need for a single touch, including the charger,â€� says Musk.
The current generation of Teslaâ€™s Autopilot isÂ essentiallyÂ cruise control with some bells and whistles. It can keep the car in its own lane, follow the road, and stop itselfÂ from driving into the trunk of the Honda Accord ahead of it. But it is incapable of taking you down an off-rampÂ and onto the streets of a major metropolitan area. Nor can itÂ navigate the mundane cross-traffic of a small town.
However, Teslas equipped with the new hardware will be losing that functionality anyway. The company’s website says thatÂ upgraded cars will temporarily lack certain features available withÂ first-generation Autopilot hardware, “including some standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking, collision warning, lane holding and active cruise control.”
This could be a sly way of reevaluating some the previous tech that may have caused a fatal collision in Florida last May, while also preparing the new autonomous mode for regulator approval.Â The Model S involved in that crash was operating in Autopilot mode and collided with a tractor-trailer that the Autopilot system failed to recognize.
â€œIt will take us some time into the future to complete validation of the software and to get the required regulatory approval, but the important thing is that the foundation is laid for the cars to be fully autonomous at a safety level we believe to be at least twice that of a person, maybe better,â€� Musk saidÂ on Wednesday.
Tesla released a software update for its Autopilot system in early September, with improved cameras, radar, and the computing power needed to perform moreÂ involved tasks than the previous incarnation. This served to make the semi-autonomous technology in the existing Tesla fleet safer. Model S and Model X sedans are currently in production with the fully autonomous hardware, with theÂ Model 3 set to arrive late next year.[Image: Tesla Motors]