Have you ever wanted to summon your car to come and get you, even though it’s miles away?
If carmaker Tesla’s latest announcement is anything to go by, that day may not be far off.
The company said yesterday that it is building full self-driving hardware into all of its new cars, with immediate effect.
A video to demonstrate the company’s technology shows a car parking itself after dropping off its driver.
In a tweet, Tesla CEO Elon Musk noted that the new technology would allow the driver to summon the car again via their phone, “even if you are on the other side of the country”.
When you want your car to return, tap Summon on your phone. It will eventually find you even if you are on the other side of the country— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 20, 2016
The company said that all of its new vehicles produced from now on – including its lower-cost Model 3 – will have full self-driving hardware built in. The technology will include:
- Eight cameras, providing 360 degree visibility
- Twelve ultrasonic sensors that the company says will be able to detect objects at almost twice the distance of the previous system
- A forward-facing radar system “capable of seeing through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead”
- An onboard computer with more than 40 times the processing power of its previous one.
In an announcement that focused heavily on safety, Tesla said that its self-driving capability would be “at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver”.
The company has faced questions over its safety record in recent months, following the death of a driver while using its Autopilot feature.
It has also reportedly been asked to stop using the term ‘Autopilot’ in its advertising by Germany’s transport ministry.
One step closer to self-driving taxis?
Tesla’s latest announcement also refers to the company’s plans for car-sharing, saying that full autonomy would enable a Tesla to “lower the cost of transportation for those who own a car and provide low-cost on-demand mobility for those who do not”.
Car owners will be able to add their vehicles to Tesla’s shared fleet, allowing them to earn money by sharing their vehicle with other users when they do not need it.
Such a scheme is likely to see Tesla compete directly with existing ride-hailing platforms such as Lyft and Uber, which is currently trialling its own self-driving taxi fleet in Pittsburgh.
The Tesla Network, the company’s name for its car-sharing scheme, will restrict car owners to only sharing their vehicles “for revenue purposes” on its platform, according to the company’s website. Further details of the scheme will be announced next year.
When will Tesla’s fully self-driving cars start operating?
Cars with the new hardware will not have it activated until the company has further calibrated the system, said Tesla.
The company will use data gathered from millions of miles of real-world driving in its cars to help improve the safety and performance of its new technologies.
Tesla also noted that its new cars will not have all of the features of its existing ’Autopilot’ system activated initially, as the firm works to “robustly” validate these features before they are activated over the air.
The company’s announcement does not set out a firm timetable for the activation of full autonomy, as this is likely to be dictated by regulators.
Just last month, the US Department of Transportation announced a new federal policy designed to aid the smooth introduction of self-driving vehicles.
The policy includes guidance setting out the design, development and testing standards that automated vehicles will be expected to meet before they are used on public roads.