Tesla Motors has announced that its electric cars will be the first in America to all be fitted with self-driving hardware.
The California-headquartered firm will be fitting its S, X and the forthcoming 3 sedan with the technology to drive themselves. A Tesla announcement said the models would all have “the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver”.
This technology is known as full Level 5 autonomy, which means no involvement is necessary at all from human drivers. Tesla is just one of a number of motor and technology firms, including Google, Ford and Volvo, which have all indicated they are looking at the production of self-driving cars by the year 2021.
Tesla has not given a time-scale for when its own self drive cars will be ready for consumers to purchase, although its CEO Elon Musk has said he recognises that there are lots of bureaucratic hoops the firm will have to jump through first.
He said: “It’s not up to us, it’s up to the regulators, and we hope things don’t become balkanised and different in every state. It’s a question of what the public and regulators think is appropriate.”
The next generation of Tesla’s Autopilot, as it calls the partial self-driving feature which is in its current cars, is set to have eight cameras which will provide 360-degree visibility at a range of up to 250 meters. It will also have sensors to detect both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the current Autopilot system.
Tesla’s technology will also have a forward-facing radar, which can provide data and is capable of seeing through very heavy rain, fog, dust, and even the car ahead, in a way the human eye can’t.
Mr Musk said it was unfair that there was such a concentration in the media on the few accidents which have been related to self-driving cars.
Talking about the more than a million people who die each year in road accidents, he added: “If you’re dissuading people from autonomous driving, you’re killing people.
However, many people feel it will be sometime yet before the public is happy to accept self-drive cars.
New York University professor Arun Sundararajan said: “Cultural acceptance comes not just from the experience of the person driving, but the experience of the others on the road. We have to get comfortable not just with being in these cars, but having them around us, on our streets, near our schools.”