In a highly anticipated announcement, Tesla earlier today said that every new Model S and Model X coming off of the production line will be now outfitted with advanced self-driving hardware that meets Level 5 autonomy specifications. In short, Level 5 autonomy means that new Tesla vehicles will have the ability to go from point A to point B with no human intervention whatsoever. Simply enter in a destination and you're off.
As previously rumored, Tesla's revamped Autopilot hardware consists of enhanced sensors across the board.
Eight surround cameras provide 360 degree visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range. Twelve updated ultrasonic sensors complement this vision, allowing for detection of both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system. A forward-facing radar with enhanced processing provides additional data about the world on a redundant wavelength, capable of seeing through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead.
To help handle and process the avalanche of new data being taken in by Tesla's new sensors, Tesla will be relying upon a new onboard computer from Nvidia that is 40 times more powerful than the computer used on existing Tesla vehicles. All told, Tesla promises that the combination of new Autopilot hardware and software will offer drivers a "view of the world that a driver alone cannot access, seeing in every direction simultaneously and on wavelengths that go far beyond the human senses."
Now does this mean that new Model S and Model X owners will immediately be able to take advantage of the full power and functionality offered by Tesla's new hardware? Not quite yet, but that is certainly on the horizon.
Tesla explains that before it activates the full autonomous functionality across its fleet, it plans to calibrate the software by analyzing millions of miles of "real-world driving to ensure significant improvements to safety and convenience." In the interim, as Tesla's new hardware is busy learning, new Tesla vehicles will "temporarily lack certain features currently available on Teslas with first-generation Autopilot hardware, including some standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking, collision warning, lane holding and active cruise control."
As the miles rack up, and once Tesla's new hardware meets the company's safety standards, they will be enabled remotely via an over-the-air software update. In due time, new Tesla's with the advanced Autopilot hardware will be significantly smarter than current Tesla vehicles.
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