Tesla cars currently in production, as well as the upcoming Model 3, will be equipped with the hardware to become fully self-driving, the electric car maker announced Wednesday.
“The foundation has been laid for fully autonomous, it’s twice as safe as a human, maybe better,” CEO Elon Musk said during a media call Wednesday evening.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean Tesla vehicles will start zipping around autonomously right away.
Here’s a closer look at what the company is doing and how it plans to roll out the technology.
What exactly has changed?
Tesla will now offer Enhanced Autopilot, which is an improved semi-autonomous system, and a system that offers full self-driving capability.
Consumers will be able to choose between an Enhanced Autopilot system and a system that has full self-driving capabilities.
Enhanced Autopilot is basically a new and improved version of Tesla’s current Autopilot system with improved capabilities, including the ability to match speeds to traffic conditions, exit the freeway automatically, and change lanes automatically without input.
Tesla’s full self-driving system, on the other hand, will be able to achieve so-called Level 5 autonomy, Musk said. This means that once the software is ready and regulations are in place, Tesla cars will be able to drive without human intervention.
Tesla vehicles with this full self-driving system will be capable of operating on highways and city streets.
What’s the difference in hardware between Enhanced Autopilot and the system with full self-driving capability?
All of Tesla’s cars going forward will be equipped with the hardware that makes full autonomy possible.
This includes eight cameras, 12 ultrasonic sonar sensors, a forward facing radar, and a new onboard computer that provides 40 times the computing power of the previous generation of Autopilot.
The cameras along with the radar and other sensors give the vehicle 360 degrees of visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range.
However, the hardware in use will depend on the system you decide to purchase.
Enhanced Autopilot uses four of the eight cameras to operate, while the full self-driving system takes advantage of all eight cameras.
How will Tesla’s fully self-driving system work?
It sounds like the whole process of using the fully autonomous system will be pretty easy.
According to Tesla’s website, you can simply get in the vehicle, say where you want to go, then the car will calculate the best route and drive you to your destination.
If you do not say a destination, the car will look at your calendar and automatically drive you to the destination listed. If nothing is on the calendar, the car will take you home, the company states on its website.
“Your Tesla will figure out the optimal route, navigate urban streets (even without lane markings), manage complex intersections with traffic lights, stop signs and roundabouts, and handle densely packed freeways with cars moving at high speed,” the company said.
“When you arrive at your destination, simply step out at the entrance and your car will enter park seek mode, automatically search for a spot and park itself. A tap on your phone summons it back to you.”
You can learn more about how the system will work here.
How much it will cost?
- YouTube/Motor Trend
Enhanced Autopilot costs $5,000 and the fully self-driving system prices at $8,000 at the time of purchase.
You can choose to turn on Enhanced Autopilot or the full self-driving capabilities after purchase, but it will cost you $6,000 and $10,000 respectively.
When will Tesla owners be able to access the fully autonomous system?
All Tesla vehicles currently in production include the new hardware that enables full autonomy. However, if you buy a Tesla today, that doesn’t mean you can just hand over complete control to you car.
Enhanced Autopilot functions are expected to roll out in December, according to Tesla’s website.
If you opt for Tesla’s fully autonomous system, you will also begin to get the same features included in Enhanced Autopilot in December. But it is still unclear when your car will become completely autonomous.
“Self-driving functionality is dependent upon extensive software validation and regulatory approval, which may vary widely by jurisdiction,” Tesla states on its website.
So basically, you’ll be waiting before your car is driving you around autonomously.
Can I use my self-driving Tesla on a ride-sharing or ride hailing network?
- Tesla Motors
Tesla owners will be able to make money off their self-driving cars, but only on Tesla’s upcoming car-sharing service.
Earlier this year, Musk said that Tesla would launch a mobility ride-hailing service when its autonomous cars were ready. Tesla owners will be able to add their autonomous vehicle to the Tesla Network when they are not using their car.
People will be able to hail a Tesla ride via an app and the car will autonomously pick them up and take them to their destination. When the owner needs the car back, they will simply request the car to return via the app.
On Thursday, though, Tesla added a statement to its website that states owners will only be able to use their vehicle on Tesla’s network to make money. So presumably, you won’t be able to use your self-driving Tesla on other ride-hailing platforms like Uber or Lyft. But Tesla said it will release more details about how the service will work next year.
Will Tesla be liable if my self-driving Tesla gets in an accident?
- REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
It doesn’t look like it.
During a press call Thursday evening, Musk was asked if Tesla would take a similar stance as Volvo and take legal responsibility for an accident that occurs in its cars while driving in autonomous mode.
Musk said that Tesla would not unless the accident stemmed from a design related problem.
“No, I think that would be up to the individual’s insurance,” Musk said. “If it is something endemic to our design, certainly we would take our responsibility for that.”