THE STEP TOWARDS FULLY SELF-DRIVING CARS
Self-driving cars have been in the works for quite some time now, and for good reasons. These autonomous vehicles have the potential to make our roads safer by eliminating traffic fatalities caused by human error. A number of startups and established automakers have been trying to develop self-driving technology. While this technology has fielded in tests, an AI powered system that drives the car on its own without any driver input is yet to become a feature on mainstream cars. Tesla has arguably come the farthest but even their current autopilot system requires drivers to constantly pay attention behind the wheel.
TESLA TO RELEASE AN UPDATED AUTOPILOT SYSTEM
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said recently that the test version of the company’s updated Autopilot system will be released in a month or so. He did not describe the systems capabilities with any detail but he said “you’ll see what it’s like. It’s amazing. It’s clearly going to work.” Because Elon Musk is known for making bold and sometimes overreaching statements, it is unclear at this time whether this new autopilot system will be completely autonomous.
Musk has stated previously that the company’s latest electric cars have all the hardware they need for self driving, they just needed the software. Apparently Musk and his team have had to completely rewrite the autopilot software. So while the details of this new system have been obfuscated it is expected to be a giant leap towards an autonomous vehicle.
THE FUTURE OF SELF-DRIVING CARS
It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. The safety and convenience benefits associated with self-driving cars are too great to not develop this technology. Elon Musk touched on safety as well stating that an advanced autopilot would allow Teslas to become 10 times less likely to be involved in a serious crash than the industry average. That adds up to a lot of lives saved which would be a powerful net benefit to the rest of society.
The hardware for these kinds of cars have been available for quite some time. The software capabilities are quickly being developed not just by Tesla but by many other automakers as well. The last piece of this picture that is needed for widespread consumer ownership is affordability. At the moment there aren’t even very many affordable electric cars on the market let along self-driving cars. Eventually though it is clear that every automaker will begin offering electric and self driving vehicles and competition will drive costs down. Elon Musk in particular plans to wring so many cost savings from pioneering manufacturing techniques and better innovations that Tesla will be able to produce a low cost self-driving electric car.