Tesla’s (mostly) spectacular Autopilot went live just a few weeks ago via an over-the-air software update, provided, of course, that you purchased your Model S uber-sedan after October 2014 when the requisite hardware was installed. Reports are surfacing, however, that Tesla is already working on its next generation Autopilot hardware — not just the software — which it needs in order to bring Teslas a crucial step closer to fully autonomous driving.
As reported just hours ago, Mobileye, an Israeli supplier responsible for a whopping 90% of automakers’ autonomous vehicle hardware and software needs, is already at work on the next version of its autonomous hardware tech that could well result in fully autonomous — or essentially fully autonomous — driving within just a couple years, or at least when legislation finally catches up with the technology.
While Tesla’s current version of Autopilot is certainly impressive — indeed, to be fair, a revolutionary advancement compared to the current state of the art, arguably, the system currently implemented in Mercedes’ latest generation S Class — it’s definitely not fully autonomous yet. For instance, it doesn’t stop at traffic lights and stop signs, it won’t change lanes on its own, and it isn’t exactly the best at carving up strands of whole-tarmac spaghetti through epic canyon roads, never mind its exemplary ability to avoid potentially catastrophic T-bone collisions. At 45 mph. On a dark and stormy night. Seriously.
(An interesting distinction between Mobileye’s approach to autonomous vehicle design — and thus, Tesla’s — is their decision to use cameras rather than LIDAR, a type of radar system that analyzes reflected laser light, and the preferred technology of Google’s self-driving cars. While camera-implemented vision is indeed a massively complex task — computer vision is a monumentally difficult thing to get right — the end result, at least according to Mobileye CEO Ziv Aviram, is far more sophisticated, much higher resolution data with which the car can “see” the world ahead.)
While nothing in the report explicitly calls out Tesla by name, Aviram made clear that certain customers were pushing for more and more autonomous features; and given Tesla’s current relationship with Mobileye, and Elon Musk’s determination to get fully autonomous cars on the road within three to five years, legislation permitting, it’s a reasonable assumption to make.
Click over to Electrek for the full report, including quotes from Aviram himself, as well as some interesting diagrams and video highlighting the differences between today’s Autopilot and what we should expect in just a few more years.