As of October 16, all Teslas come from the factory with a new suite of hardware to support its semi-autonomous Autopilot system. The package includes 8 cameras, 12 second generation ultrasonic sensors, and a forward looking radar. The input from all those sensors is fed into Nvidia’s latest “supercomputer in a box” to make sense of it all. The sampling rate is said to be 2100 frames per second.
After Tesla made news of the upgraded package public — it is known internally as Hardware 2 — it said that cars fitted with the new hardware would not have many of the features drivers of older Teslas are accustomed to when operating in Autopilot mode. Why is that? Essentially, the new system is like a newborn baby. It needs to acquire data all over again before it knows how to function correctly. Cars built since October 19 have had the new software operating in “shadow mode.”
Every mile the cars have driven, the computers have taken all the data acquired and calculated what they would have done if they were in control of the car and compared that with what human drivers actually did. They have also shared all that data with Tesla engineers at company headquarters so they could refine the software and make it function correctly based on real world experience. Now, Elon Musk has tweeted that Tesla is ready to start rolling out the over the air software updates that will begin making the new Autopilot 2.0 operational. Musk says all the features will not be available right away. The updates will be rolled out over the next few months.
about three weeks and it will get rolled out incrementally in monthly releases
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 27, 2016
Musk calls the new system Tesla Vision. Once federal and state regulators give their blessing, the cars built after October 19 will be capable of full Level 5 autonomous driving. Until that day arrives — Tesla hopes it will coincide with the start of deliveries of the Model 3 — Enhanced Autopilot means “your Tesla will match speed to traffic conditions, keep within a lane, automatically change lanes without requiring driver input, transition from one freeway to another, exit the freeway when your destination is near, self-park when near a parking spot, and be summoned to and from your garage,” Tesla says.
As usual, while others promise, Tesla delivers. There seems little doubt Teslas will be the first fully autonomous production cars on the road, at least those without bulbous gizmos grafted onto their roofs that look like something out of Lost in Space.