Musk says Tesla cars are 'very close' to full autonomy
A new day, an old Elon Musk and a new hawkish claim! The billionaire tech mogul has said that his EV company is "very close" to making Level 5 autonomy a reality for its vehicles. This essentially means Tesla cars may soon be able to handle driving in most, if not all, conditions, without requiring any human involvement. Here's all about it.
Tesla offers Level 2 autonomy at present
For years, Musk has made bold claims about enabling full autonomy in Tesla cars. The company has made significant hardware and software changes geared towards achieving this goal but has only been able to offer, what is generally considered to be, Level 2 autonomy, where the driver has to be ready to take control of the wheel at any time.
What Tesla cars can currently do?
At present, Tesla's self-driving system can automatically change lanes, navigate, speed up and slow down, without driver's intervention. But, it requires the driver to hold the steering wheel and monitor traffic for safety. So, if anything goes wrong, they could avoid accidents.
However, this may change soon, claims Musk
During a recent Q&A session at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC), Musk claimed that the company will be able to make its vehicles fully autonomous by the end of this year. "I'm extremely confident that Level 5, or essentially complete autonomy, will happen and I think will happen very quickly," Musk said. "I feel like we are very close."
It will be basic Level 5 autonomy, Musk added
Musk added that the company will be able to achieve basic requirements for Level 5 autonomy through a future software update, and no new hardware. "We will have the basic functionality for Level 5 autonomy complete this year," the billionaire said, noting that "there are no fundamental challenges remaining." Now, this would be a major push for the ecosystem of self-driving vehicles.
Systems being trained for unexpected situations
Musk noted that Tesla is training its systems (with data gathered from on-road vehicles) to detect and handle unexpected situations people could face on the road. "You have to have the system figure out and train to deal with these odd situations," he said. "This is why you need the kind of real-world situations. Nothing is more complex and weird than the real world."
Improvements will continue even after autonomy upgrade
Even when Level 5 autonomy is activated, Tesla would be pushing out OTA updates to improve self-driving performance. This, as Musk explains, is because even after you address small problems and put the system together, a "long tail" of issues keeps cropping up. Those issues would have to be addressed dynamically to be able to handle a "vast majority of situations" on road.