Tesla says they’ve got full autonomous driving figured out, while everyone else is saying no, they haven’t.
Yesterday, Elon Musk presented Tesla’s self-driving plans to his investors. His plans are pretty optimistic, even by Musk’s standards: full level 5 autonomy on 1 million Teslas by the year 2020. Which is next year. There are currently 400,000 Teslas on the road.
Let’s break this down a bit. Level 5 autonomous driving means the car does everything without any driver input. The steering wheel can be tossed out the window--you don’t need it anymore. With 400,000 Teslas currently on the road, getting to 1 million would involve retrofitting every Tesla with self-driving tech in addition to producing vehicles at levels Tesla has thus far never seen.
Tesla is getting their production up to the point where they can make another 600,000 vehicles, and they also revealed a fancy new chip that could be installed in older Teslas to provide them with this theoretical level 5 autonomy.
Musk also said he’d get to fully autonomous driving without the use of LiDAR, a laser-based sensor system that creates a 3D image of the car’s surroundings. Instead, they’d stick with 8 cameras providing a 360-degree view of the vehicle, front-facing radar, and short-range ultrasonic sensors.
Experts say that this lack of LiDAR is insane. Every other autonomous car manufacturer uses LiDAR, including industry leader Waymo. Ford’s chief technical officer Ken Washington also said in a recent Recode interview that not using LiDAR is means the car is simply not a self-driving vehicle.
“Let me just really emphasize that. They’re consumer vehicles with really good driver-assist technology,” he said, making a specific dig at Tesla.
Tesla’s own vehicles have been involved in numerous crashes despite being advertised as having self-driving capability, although the manufacturer also still states that the driver must remain alert at all times.
Frankly, we’re not sure what to make of this. Most Americans are afraid of self-driving cars and wouldn’t set foot inside one, according to a recent survey, but Tesla thinks that a fleet of self-driving robocars is just a little over a year away.
Guess we’ll find out one way or another.