The electric vehicle company shared its incredibly optimistic full self-driving vision for the future which includes ‘robotaxis’ a new autonomous-driving chip and more.
New self-driving chip
To start off, the company shared that its Full Self-Driving computer is finally in production. Some vehicles—including Model S and X as of March 20th and the Model 3 as of April 12th—are even outfitted with this unit already.
The company will start offering the ability to upgrade older vehicles later this year, reports Electrek.
The chip is built from the ground up for Tesla’s self-driving neural network and is 21 times better than the previous Nvidia hardware. The chip is being manufactured by Samsung which was reported on late last year.
By 2020, Elon Musk claims that there will be a million Teslas on the road that will be able to operate as self-driving robotaxis. He does note that regulatory approval will be a significant issue with pushing this out, but it’s something the company is working on.
Tesla owners with vehicles that have the ‘Full Self-Driving’ capable package will be able to enter their Tesla into the robotaxi pool, and the vehicle will act similarly to an Uber whenever the driver isn’t using it.
To make this happen Elon Musk said that by the end of the year, Tesla’s vehicles with the Full Self-Driving package will hit SAE Level 5 autonomy, or the highest level of autonomous driving a vehicle can reach. In Ontario, only SAE Level 3 vehicles are allowed on roads.
Musk is also predicting that by the middle of 2020 there will be a million Teslas on the road that have this capability and will support being used as a robotaxi.
All users will need to do is open the Tesla app, summon a nearby vehicle to pick them up and it will take them from point A to point B—if they live in an area with regulatory support for self-driving cars without a driver, that is.
There will also be some restrictions that the vehicle’s owner will be able to impose on their car. Owners can make it so only their friends can rent their vehicle or choose select times during which their vehicle is available.
Tesla owners who rent out their vehicle can expect to make an extra $30,000 USD (roughly, 40,054.50 CAD) per year with the Robotaxi functionality, according to Musk’s presentation.
Musk says that with this feature on the horizon buying a traditional car is financially insane and will be like owning a horse in a few years.
These self-driving cars can’t be used by other ride-sharing companies either since Tesla implemented a clause a few years ago that restricts Tesla owners from using their vehicles for any other ride-sharing services other than its own.
The California-based company decided to do this since it’s hoping to make a profit from taking a cut from each Robotaxi ride, much like how Apple does when people buy apps from the App Store.
Musk also theorizes, but didn’t promise, that if a Tesla gets into an accident while driving itself, Tesla would be liable, not the owner.
Musk is so confident in the vehicle’s self-driving that he says in around two years he thinks the company will be making Teslas without steering wheels.
Other notable announcements
Musk states that Tesla owners will someday be able to dial up the aggression of their autonomous cars to a point where there might even be a slight chance that the vehicle will end up in a fender bender.
The CEO also took some time to take shots at 3D maps and LIDAR. Tesla’s notably don’t use LIDAR while their competitors do and Musk says that it’s an expensive add-on that’s not worth it, according to TechCrunch. Tesla’s use radar, GPS, maps, ultrasonic sensors and cameras instead.
3D maps are another technology that self-driving car companies are looking into. These maps are highly detailed digital versions of the world that allows the cars to know where they are and more. Musk says that these won’t be useful since the world is constantly changing.
While Musk announced robotaxis he mentioned that once that happens people won’t be able to buy a Model 3 after a lease since the car will still have value to the company.
Further, the company is designing all of its cars to work for 1 million miles so that they can handle all the extra driving involved with being a robotaxi.
Source: Tesla, Electrek, TechCrunch