Tesla announced today that all of its cars will have a new suite of self-driving hardware as standard, enabling a path to fully autonomous driving. The announcement applies to the Model X, Model S and upcoming Model 3, which should come out in 2018.
The AutoPilot feature supports adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance, giving the cars nearly self-driving capability. It also enables automatic emergency braking and collision warning.
That means each car will come with eight cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors and a forward-facing radar. Tesla says it is implementing a new onboard computer that will process the data and make driving decisions. The computer uses an Nvidia Titan GPU and runs a neural net, so it can process imagery and define objects in its environment.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk says the new hardware will support Level 5 autonomy, which means the cars can drive themselves completely. However, Tesla will not enable full self-driving immediately. Instead, Musk says the company will roll out features to enhance safety and assist drivers, eventually leading to full autonomy.
Tesla will use data gathered from the cars’ sensors to virtually drive millions of miles, letting it refine the system before activating self-driving features. The self-driving computer will run in “shadow mode”, according to Musk, taking in real-world data from its sensors and simulating driving decisions. All the cars coming out of the factory with the new hardware will help Tesla refine its self-driving capabilities.
Until Tesla completes testing for the software with its new hardware suite, features such as adaptive cruise control and emergency braking will not be enabled in new Tesla Models. Musk offered no specifics as to when driver assistance features based on the new hardware would be activated.
Existing cars with what Tesla calls “hardware one”, a less robust sensor suite than the new self-driving hardware, will not be upgraded, although the company will continue to refine the software up to its limits.