All Teslas will now be manufactured with hardware that will enable the vehicle to completely drive itself in all situations, CEO Elon Musk announced Wednesday.
That means when Tesla’s fully self-driving software is ready, all it will take is an over-the-air update to turn semi-autonomous Teslas (already in production) into fully autonomous cars.
Model X and Model S vehicles currently in production will have a lot more cameras, sensors and radars to enable full autonomy. Specifically, the sensor suite, which Musk called “hardware 2,” will include eight 360-degree cameras, 12 ultrasonic radars and a forward-facing radar.
Compare that to the old hardware suite, which only included one forward-facing camera and radars and sonars with half the resolution of the new radars.
The cars will also be equipped with new software that is 40 times more powerful than the existing software to better process information from the radars, sonars and cameras, according to the company.
“The [existing] autopilot will continue to improve with fleet learning,” Musk said on a call with journalists. “But it is limited by the fundamental hardware that is on the hardware 1 cars … They have half the range and resolution.”
But consumers won’t get fully self-driving tech overnight. Instead, as Tesla has done with its semi-autonomous Autopilot feature, the company will be rolling out new autonomous features every two to three months, Musk said. Even when all the software’s capabilities aren’t yet active, it will be operating in what Musk called “shadow mode.”
While Autopilot has come under fire recently after a number of drivers operating the feature were involved in accidents, Musk continues to contend that any level of autonomous technology is safer than manually driven cars.
“There are many more minor accidents and serious accidents than there are fatalities. That provides a much richer statistical sample set for comparing the relative safety of autonomy versus not-autonomy,” Musk said. “We see significantly better [results] with autonomy than without. That just gets better over time as the system is further refined.”
Musk, not one to mince words, also said that anyone who discourages the use of autonomous technology is in fact committing murder:
It’s not the first time Musk has criticized those who question the safety of semi-autonomous technology. In another call with reporters, the Tesla CEO said of other automakers, “I think it would be morally wrong to withhold functionalities that improve safety simply in order to avoid criticisms or for fear of being involved in lawsuits.”
The industry has long debated whether semi-autonomous technology is safe. Opponents argue that because it requires a human to pay attention and occasionally engage with the system it also welcomes human error in a way that fully self-driving vehicles would not.
But proponents of semi-autonomous tech, like Musk, argue that it would be irresponsible not to reap the safety benefits of autonomous technology at all levels.