New Tesla Video Shows a Full Self-Driving Car, Powered by Neural Networks
Tesla CEO Elon Musk gathered investment analysts and software and hardware engineers on Monday at the company’s headquarters in Palo Alto, California to tell them that Tesla vehicles have the hardware to drive autonomously. Musk predicted that by 2020, the company will have one million potential robo taxis on the asphalt.
Tesla on Monday night released a video showing the tech in action: A Tesla car navigates through suburban roads, highways, four-way intersections, and most notably, an offramp loop. Currently, Tesla’s Autopilot feature has some trouble handling sharp loops entering or exiting a highway, which require manual intervention — e.g., hands on the wheel — at times. But the demo was completed without the person in driver’s seat ever touching the steering wheel.
Musk said that these capabilities will roll out to every Tesla with Autopilot by the end of 2019 via an over-the-air software update. He notes that drivers will still need to be observant of the road, but said that even if a portion of the computer fails it would still be safer than a human driver losing continuousness behind the wheel.
The video and test drivers were all made possible thanks to Tesla’s custom-made Full Self-Driving Computer, that’s already in a large portion of the company’s cars.
Model S and Model X vehicles switched from Nvidia chips to FSD chips in March, while Model 3s made the switch in April.
“At first it seems improbable — how could it be that Tesla, who has never designed a chip before — would design the best chip in the world?” said Musk. “But that is objectively what has occurred. Not best by a small margin, best by a huge margin. It’s in the cars right now.”
The chipset is a small brain, baked inside of every Tesla car. The automobiles come retrofitted with 8 vision cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and radar technology that feed data to the neural network housed inside of the computer. This technique is in sharp contrast to the lidar method — used by the likes of Waymo — which uses pulsed laser lights to illuminate the area around a vehicle and measuring the reflected light with a sensor.
If Tesla’s FSD performs as advertise on the road when it rolls out, Tesla could very quickly become a major player in the ride-sharing industry. Musk said that drivers could sign up their cars to become part of the “Tesla Network,” which would have them autonomously driving people around when their owners are sleeping or at work. Tesla will earn a cut of the fare paid for each ride, just like Uber or Lyft.
Musk estimates that after a little more than a year of using the Tesla Network daily owners could make roughly $30,000, which most of the $35,000 of a Model 3 back. This could prove to be a compelling side hustle for consumers and a lucrative business for Tesla.