Tesla CEO Elon Musk gave a state of the company’s autonomous driving platform at its recent Tesla Autonomy Day, offering insight into where the company’s technology is headed in the coming years including self-driving Teslas, robotaxis and the technology that enables these vehicles to be self-driving.
1) Tesla vehicles are already autonomous capable
Musk said that all of the vehicles that Tesla is manufacturing right now already have the automated technology inside to allow the cars to take over the driving capabilities from humans.
All that it would take would be for Tesla to flip a switch in the software and the feature would be available, Musk said. The technology is called Navigate on Autopilot and Musk said the technology would be inside one million Tesla vehicles by 2020.
2) Tesla to compete against Uber and Lyft over robotaxis
Musk and Tesla have long said that one of the major benefits of autonomous driving will be the establishment of a fleet of robotaxis for ridesharing or car hailing services. These cars would transport passengers autonomously and would theoretically be able to operate all day with minimal human intervention.
Uber and Lyft along with numerous others such as nuTonomy and Drive.AI are already developing self-driving vehicles to be used for such a service. Now, it appears Tesla will be accelerating its development for robotaxis as well.
“I feel very confident predicting autonomous robotaxis for Tesla next year,” Musk said during the conference.
3) Those using lidar are doomed
While numerous companies are planning on using lidar for full self-driving, Musk called it a “fool's errand" and that anyone “who relies on lidar is doomed.”
Musk predicted that in the coming years, lidar will be dumped as self-driving cars only need radar in the forward direction because they travel very fast.
In addition to giving a glimpse into what to expect from Tesla in the future, the company rolled out a new video showcasing its full self-driving capabilities in future Teslas. The video shows the vehicle traveling through city streets as well as on the freeway without the human ever taking the wheel. While not ready for commercial rollout at this point, it gives an example of what the future may be in terms of autonomous driving.