Tesla cars could be fully autonomous in 2017, Elon Musk says

Elon Musk says that new hardware and software packages should make all new Teslas fully autonomous by the end of 2017, accelerating Silicon Valley's race toward self-driving cars.

Benoit Tessier/ Reuters/ File
The Tesla Model X car is displayed on media day at the Paris auto show in Paris, France, on September 29, 2016.

Tesla Motors chief executive Elon Musk announced on Wednesday that his company is taking the next step towards creating fully autonomous vehicles, a move that suggests that Tesla could win the race to build the first true self-driving car.

New Tesla Model X and Model S vehicles may roll off the assembly line with all the hardware bells and whistles – from additional sensors to faster radar – to one day be fully self-driving. But with safety regulations lagging behind, some observers wonder whether the United States is ready.

"It will basically be a supercomputer in a car," Mr. Musk said, according to the Associated Press. The new technology could raise the cost of purchasing a Tesla vehicle by about $8,000, but for that price, new owners will have a vehicle with 40 times the computing power of older Tesla models.

By the end of 2017, Musk says, a Tesla owner should be able to drive from California to New York without ever touching the wheel. The software to make this possible, however, is still in development.

More work must be done before safety regulators allow any autonomous Teslas loose on the road, however. At present, rigorous testing procedures prevent Tesla from making current models even more autonomous than its current Autopilot system.

In September, federal regulators released new guidelines for automakers who seek to develop autonomous vehicles. Those guidelines include a 15-point safety standard that includes provisions for passenger safety and information protection.

Nevertheless, car buyers remain wary of autonomous vehicles, especially following a Tesla crash in Florida this May that resulted in one fatality.

"The No. 1 reason why people say they are unlikely to buy an autonomous vehicle is that they don't feel that they're safe," Moe Kelley, the director of the consulting firm Altman Vilandrie and Company, told The Christian Science Monitor's Passcode earlier this year.

A Kelley Blue Book survey this year found that many older drivers, in particular, feel uncomfortable with fully autonomous cars, making level four vehicles the most appealing to buyers. Carmakers define level four autonomous vehicles as cars that are fully self-driving, but also provide owners with the option to drive.

While Musk maintains that Teslas are much safer than human drivers, many potential buyers are still dubious, with concerns ranging from ethics (such as whether the car should prioritize protecting its driver, or pedestrians) to cybersecurity.

"The worst case scenario is that a hacker will be able to drive someone off the road," Mr. Kelley told the Monitor. "People also fear for their privacy with automated vehicles. Even minor hacks that allow someone's movements to be tracked over the internet are scary to many consumers as well."

Musk expects new Teslas to be fully autonomous by the end of 2017, but some say that the Tesla founder's timelines have been unrealistic in the past.

"There's also a risk that by the time all these self-driving features are fully tested and activated, other manufacturers may be ready to roll out more advanced hardware with better capabilities," Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at Edmunds.com, told the Associated Press.

Nearly three dozen companies are testing and developing autonomous car technology, as the Monitor reported in August. Ford is pushing to have fully autonomous cars serve as fleets for ride-hailing and delivery services by 2021, with hopes to sell to individual buyers later in the 2020s. Other companies competing include Uber, Mercedes-Benz, Google, Apple, BMW, and Volvo. 

This report includes material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Tesla cars could be fully autonomous in 2017, Elon Musk says
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Technology/2016/1020/Tesla-cars-could-be-fully-autonomous-in-2017-Elon-Musk-says
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe