Tesla Motors is an automaker known for its production of electric, semi-autonomous vehicles.
During a recent press call, the Chief Executive Officer of Tesla, Elon Musk, announced that he plans to release a completely self-driving Tesla car that will be able travel from Los Angeles to New York without any human interference by the end of 2017.
“The foundation has been laid for [a] fully autonomous [car], it’s twice as safe as a human, maybe better,” Musk said according to Business Insider.
Tesla announced on Oct. 19 that all its cars will now be equipped with a full set of self-driving hardware. According to the Tesla website, this standard autonomous hardware consists of eight surround-view cameras that will provide 360 degree visibility with up to a 250 meter range, 12 ultrasonic sensors that will allow for “detection of both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system” and an enhanced radar that will be “capable of seeing through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead.”
In order to handle these processes, the new hardware will also include an onboard supercomputer with 40 times the computing power of previous generation computers.
According to the website, before features can be activated, calibration of the system is required. This can be achieved through the collection of real-world driving data that may take years. The system will also include continuous software updates to fix bugs and collect data to improve decision making.
As Tesla’s network of superchargers expands across America, the goal to drive from LA to New York may be achievable.
“Our goal is… to be able to do a demonstration drive of full autonomy all the way from LA to New York,” Musk said on the press call.
According to Musk, the trip would be “from home in LA, to dropping you off in Times Square, and then the car [would] go park itself.”
These new Tesla cars face several legal challenges. State and local laws may not permit fully autonomous driving even if Tesla successfully develops self-driving vehicles approved by federal and other state policymakers.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation released its first federal policy on automated vehicles. The Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, as a whole, supports the research and development of autonomous vehicles based on the belief that autonomous driving increases road safety and improves personal mobility.
Musk’s vision of a fully autonomous vehicle faces much criticism from the media, especially after a crash on May 9 involving a Tesla Model S operating in autopilot mode.
The crash resulted in the death of 40-year-old Joshua Brown. After investigation, it was found that the car was traveling nine miles over the posted speed limit at the time of the crash and that the car had made impact with a tractor trailer.
Skeptics argue that autonomous cars are prototypes and are not ready for a shift to the consumer stage. Critics claim that autonomous driving is unsafe and the development of software using data obtained from consumers who first buy the car is unethical.
“Though I think that it is possible for Tesla to make fully autonomous vehicles by next year, I personally believe that the safety of drivers will be compromised because computers have limitations. Despite Tesla’s claims, the mass production of these cars at a relatively low cost opens a chance of error,” freshman Matthew Lee said. “Consumers need to believe that they have full control of their vehicles, and Tesla’s fully autonomous car will take that trust away. Even a single incident can cause distrust among consumers.”
Tesla is setting the bar high by claiming to bring a perfectly autonomous car to consumers by late next year. Other companies such as General Motors, Google, Ford and Baidu are also planning to develop and release their own fully autonomous cars.
Google has collected over 200 million miles of data from self-driving cars. Tesla claims to have collected about 222 million miles. It is no secret that these companies are painstakingly racing to develop the first fully autonomous car, but Tesla is the first to claim its future success.