On Wednesday evening, Elon Musk let the world in on a long-kept secret: All future Tesla cars will be blessed with self-driving hardware, which boasts a “safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver,” the blog post claims. Until today, it was not clear whether Model 3 owners would also receive Tesla’s self-driving capabilities.
“We are excited to announce that, as of today, all Tesla vehicles produced in our factory — including Model 3 — will have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability,” Tesla writes. With Autopilot 8.0’s advanced radar processing, Tesla is trusting that it is safe enough.
The Tesla Model 3, at $35,000 before tax incentives, is the electric car manufacturer’s first car for the more general public. (The Model S and X start at $66,000 and $74,000, respectively, but their customizability makes those price tags go up quickly.) We learned four big things at the original unveiling back in April — namely, that it would feature a redesigned infotainment system, that it was very fast, that it will be very upgradable, and that it was almost production-ready.
Based on the car’s interior, and a few clever tweets by Musk, we assumed that part two of the unveiling would be to announce a heads-up display (HUD). Most big car companies already have primitive HUDs, so it only made sense for Tesla to not only follow suit, but triumph in design.
With Wednesday’s announcement, Musk surprised us. The Model 3 will not have an HUD, at least not in this iteration. It will, however, have autonomous capabilities.
Musk originally said that this announcement would come “closer to production,” which is not altogether inaccurate. But, like Musk’s every move, it’s strategic. Once again, the world can be excited about the future of autonomous driving.
Here’s the full Tesla announcement:
Self-driving vehicles will play a crucial role in improving transportation safety and accelerating the world’s transition to a sustainable future. Full autonomy will enable a Tesla to be substantially safer than a human driver, lower the financial cost of transportation for those who own a car, and provide low-cost on-demand mobility for those who do not.
We are excited to announce that, as of today, all Tesla vehicles produced in our factory – including Model 3 – will have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver. Eight surround view cameras provide 360-degree visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range. Twelve updated ultrasonic sensors complement this vision, allowing for detection of both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system. A forward-facing radar, with enhanced processing, provides additional data about the world on a redundant wavelength, capable of seeing through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead.
To make sense of all of this data, a new onboard computer, with more than 40 times the computing power of the previous generation, runs the new Tesla-developed neural net for vision, sonar, and radar processing software. Together, this system provides a view of the world that a driver alone cannot access, seeing in every direction simultaneously, and on wavelengths that go far beyond the human senses.
Model S and Model X vehicles with this new hardware are already in production, and customers can purchase one today: https://www.tesla.com/autopilot
Before activating the features enabled by the new hardware, we will further calibrate the system using millions of miles of real-world driving to ensure significant improvements to safety and convenience. While this is occurring, Teslas with new hardware will temporarily lack certain features currently available on Teslas with first-generation Autopilot hardware, including some standard safety features such as automatic emergency breaking, collision warning, lane holding, and active cruise control. As these features are robustly validated, we will enable them over-the-air, together, with a rapidly expanding set of entirely new features. As always, our over-the-air software updates will keep customers at the forefront of technology, and continue to make every Tesla, including those equipped with first-generation Autopilot and earlier cars, more capable over time.
Photos via Tesla, Getty Images / Kevork Djansezian