- detailed hardware specs for its fully-automated Autopilot system in a live feed .
- The changes include a dual-CPU setup that Elon Musk promises is fail-safe.
- Tesla's as some claim it has been implemented before it is completely safe.
Tesla’s fullest realization of Autopilot—a completely automated system it claims is fail-safe—fits in the same enclosure as its older Autopilot hardware and can potentially be retrofitted to older models, the company said today in a webcast.
Pete Bannon, a former Apple engineer and Autopilot director, said the new hardware fits in a small enclosure between the firewall and glovebox. "It does not take up half your trunk," Bannon said, in reference to autonomous prototypes other automakers have developed over the past several years.
The new hardware has been installed in vehicles since April, he said, and in the Model S and X since February. Tesla has been working on the system for three years since Bannon started at Tesla. There is no indication when Tesla will activate the new Autopilot with a software update.
Bannon emphasized a "tremendous amount of redundancy and overlap" that would enable Autopilot to function even with multiple onboard failures.
CEO Elon Musk, as usual, went further to describe it.
"Any part of this can fail, and the car will keep driving," Musk said. "The probability of this computer failing is substantially lower than someone losing consciousness."
Musk said his chipset, as compared to any other self-driving computer under development, was the "best by a huge margin."
"All Tesla cars being produced right now have everything necessary for full self-driving," he said. "All you need to do is improve the software."
Yet despite Bannon's calls for redundancy, Tesla refuses to install lidar sensors to any of its cars. Tesla relies on eight visual cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors (which are typically used for parking), and one forward-facing radar. The rest of the industry and suppliers working on autonomous vehicles swear by lidar, which uses 360-degree pulses of light to create a virtual, highly dense rendering of a vehicle's surroundings, to make the technology safe.
To that, Musk said: "Lidar is a fool's errand. Anyone relying on lidar is doomed. Doomed."
Currently, spinning lidar units are large, heavy, and very expensive. The industry, however, is looking at solid-state lidar that can be integrated behind a car's bodywork just as radar sensors and cameras are today. But Musk doesn't think his competitors can catch up.
"I think if somebody started today and they were really good, they might have something like what we have right now in three years. But in two years, we’ll have something three times better."