Elon Musk has announced that all Tesla cars will be equipped with self-driving hardware to make sure that they are future-ready and that Tesla consumers won’t be required to bring their cars for a hardware upgrade at a later date in case they wish to avail the self-driving features and instead only implement the software update when its ready.
Tesla CEO announced this at a recent press conference while also revealing details of what all hardware will be incorporated in the cars. He said that Tesla Model S and Model X electric cars will be equipped with a package costing $8,000 comprising of eight cameras, 12 updated sensors, and radar with faster processing.
Musk said that they are working on the software as of now and are optimistic that Tesla will at least have one model that is fully autonomous ready and will be able to drive from Los Angeles to New York “without the need for a single touch” on the wheel. This is a highly ambitious timeline considering that other players in the autonomous vehicle race have revealed timelines that take us into 2019 and even 2021. A two-year head-start for Tesla as envisaged by Musk is ambitious, but we hope that it doesn’t turn out to be yet another one of those need-to-be-extended timeline because something hasn’t worked out as planned.
Musk also revealed that the new cars equipped with the self-driving package will have somewhat less capability to assist drivers with steering or braking than older cars running Tesla’s Autopilot for the time being, but that wouldn’t be for long as software updates will be provided that will bring new models with the same capabilities as the older cars. Software is being developed by Telsa in-house and will run on an Nvidia Corp Titan chip.
Equipping Tesla cars with the autonomous driving package now may be a way to ensure that cars are future ready, but it also brings with it a problem. Consider the scenario wherein Tesla gets its software 100 per cent ready and tested and even approved by regulators. Still, the hardware will be one year old. Now consider a scenario where the timeline gets extended by a year or may be two, this means that the hardware will be at least two years old to start with and other competitors may have even better hardware that could perform much better than Tesla’s hardware. Buying a car now with all the autonomous gear ready sans that actual capability is something of a dead weight because you have it, but can’t use and won’t be able to do so for a year.
This is if things go well on the regulatory front. What if there are issues there and governments across the world continue to twist their ropes tighter as far as autonomous vehicles are concerned. What then? Will Tesla be able to comply with all the requirements on time? In the US itself federal and state regulators are proposing new, more rigorous standards to control the development and deployment of such systems and this could be a hurdle that Tesla may find hard to cross.