The Tesla Model 3 Is Designed For Fully Autonomous Operation, So Where Are The Robo Chauffeurs?
We’re still years away from going totally driverlessby Jonathan Lopez, on
Tesla is finally rolling out the Model 3, kicking off production with a “handover” party wherein company CEO and star boy extraordinaire Elon Musk gave us the skinny on the new sedan’s specs. In addition to learning about important numbers like range per charge and 0-to-60 mph times (310 miles and 5.1 seconds respectively for the top-trim Long Range model), Musk let slip this little nugget regarding Tesla’s self-driving aspirations: “Every Tesla being produced right now – the Model 3, the Model S, the Model X – has all the hardware necessary for full autonomy.” That means visual cameras, radar, ultrasonic sensors, and a whole lot of computing power as well. However, the Model 3 still requires a human pilot in the driver’s seat, so what gives?
The answer can be found buried deep in the Model 3 press release, following a $3,000 price tag for the Full Self-Driving Capability package: “This feature is dependent upon extensive software validation and regulatory approval, which may vary by jurisdiction.” Read on for a translation of what that really means, and a prediction of when your car will ferry you around sans inputs.
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The Full Story
Here’s what it all comes down to. While the hardware necessary for driverless cars is already here, the software needed to make it run well still needs a whole lot of work. The Model 3 will undoubtedly play a major role in this development process. With hundreds of thousands of examples of the sedan roaming the streets, Tesla will have a treasure trove of data to create the programs required to keep autonomous vehicles both safe and reliable. Think of all those 3’s as Tesla’s very own test fleet.
Think of all those 3’s as Tesla’s very own test fleet.
Then there’s the government side of the equation. Regulators are just now starting to address the fact that self-driving cars are indeed a thing, and the folks responsible for making the laws have a whole lot of catching up to do. Questions over testing, liability, and other tricky issues are just now getting dissected, and we should expect the usual slow, methodical, and inevitably inept response from the people in charge.
Still, progress is being made, and per usual, Tesla seems the most bullish on autonomous tech. Even with its extremely limited production capability, Tesla and its Model 3 represent a watershed moment for the auto industry, and I think it’s a safe bet to say Tesla will once again lead the charge into full autonomy before the bigger makes even know which way to point their cameras. After all, that’s one of the advantages of being the small guy – flexibility.
Even if all goes according to plan, I’d wager we’re still at least 3 to 5 years away from seeing widespread mainstream adoption of fully autonomous vehicles.
That said, even if all goes according to plan, I’d wager we’re still at least 3 to 5 years away from seeing widespread mainstream adoption of fully autonomous vehicles, and even that’s a pretty optimistic prediction. In the meantime, you can check out our in-depth look at the technology here, as well as some of the more controversial aspects of the technology here.
But we wanna know – are you a fan of driverless cars? Are they the future? Let us know in the comments.
Read our full review on the Tesla Model 3.