All new Tesla cars to have full self-driving feature

A Model X sport utility vehicle on display at Tesla's flagship facility in San Francisco. The company now appears to be moving beyond systems that assist human drivers, to newer technology that enables fully autonomous driving.
A Model X sport utility vehicle on display at Tesla's flagship facility in San Francisco. The company now appears to be moving beyond systems that assist human drivers, to newer technology that enables fully autonomous driving.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

But more testing will be done before system allowing for driverless vehicles is activated

DETROIT • Tesla Motors said it would equip all of its new vehicles with technology that enables fully autonomous driving, but would not activate the system until it undergoes further testing.

In a blog post, the maker of electric cars said the new hardware included cameras, sensors and radars that allow the vehicles to operate without a human driver.

Tesla said on Wednesday that the technology would be installed in all of its models, including the much-anticipated Model 3 sedan, which is expected to reach the United States market next year.

"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," the company said.

Tesla's CEO Elon Musk had been hinting in recent weeks that the company was eager to improve on its existing Autopilot feature, which assists drivers rather than controls the vehicle entirely.

Regulators have been investigating the safety of the Autopilot system since the driver of a Model S sedan was killed on May 7 in Florida.

The vehicle, operating in Autopilot mode, collided with a white articulated truck, which the system failed to recognise because of bright sunlight.

Tesla recently announced improvements to the Autopilot feature that Mr Musk said would have prevented the Florida accident. But the firm now appears to be moving beyond systems that assist human drivers, to newer technology that enables fully autonomous driving.

"It looks like Tesla's Autopilot features are that much closer to actually being a true Autopilot and not just a name for a suite of autonomous features," said Mr Akshay Anand, an analyst with automotive research firm Kelley Blue Book.

The Tesla blog post said that although the hardware would be installed in all new vehicles, the fully autonomous driving system would not be enabled until more testing was performed.

"Before activating the features enabled by the new hardware, we will further calibrate the system using millions of miles of real-world driving," Tesla said, without announcing a specific timetable.

The company is undergoing a significant expansion with the addition of the Model 3, which will be priced at US$35,000 (S$48,600) - less than half the cost of its higher-end sedans and Model X sport utility vehicle. Tesla is ratcheting up production of the Model 3 at its California plant, and expects to begin filling more than 300,000 pre-orders some time next year.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2016, with the headline 'All new Tesla cars to have full self-driving feature'. Print Edition | Subscribe