Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, in a recent phone conference, announced that all Tesla vehicles will now be equipped with the hardware necessary for full autonomous driving. The current Autopilot system is rated at Level 2 autonomy.
The new equipment, called Autopilot Hardware 2, utilizes eight surround cameras, three of which face forward, covering 360 degrees of visibility around the vehicle at a range of up to 250 meters. Hardware 2 also features 12 updated ultrasonic sensors which can detect objects at almost twice the range of the current system.
The forward-facing radar now gets an upgraded processor and a new redundant wavelength, which provides additional data. According to Tesla, this enables the system to see through rain, fog, dust, and even the car in front.
The brains behind Hardware 2 is a new onboard computer with more than 40 times the computing power of the unit found in the current Autopilot system. Tesla revealed that Model S and Model X vehicles are now available for purchase with the new hardware already installed. It was previously announced the Model 3 will come standard with Autopilot hardware, and with this news, Tesla confirmed that it will indeed be the new Hardware 2 suite. However, before Tesla activates all of the new features, it will run the sensors in “shadow mode” for more than a million miles to ensure all the features work as intended. This means that for a short time period, many first-generation Autopilot features like automatic emergency braking, collision warning, lane keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control, will be disabled.
Once the features are validated and approved, they will be gradually enabled over-the-air.
Level 5 Capability
Tesla will also offer new features for models equipped with Hardware 2, but customers with earlier models are out of luck because the current systems cannot be upgraded to Hardware 2, according to Musk.
With the new hardware, Tesla is doubling its efforts with Autopilot, and if everything works according to the plan, the system will one day be worthy of its name. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defines Level 5 as full automation, capable of operating “under all roadway and environmental conditions that can be managed by a human driver.”
Rahul Raman is the Founder of CARS 360 Mke, an automotive news outlet. He is a regular contributor to Automoblog and the author of our First Look series.
Photos & Source: Tesla, Society of Automotive Engineers