Tesla, Inc. is an American automobile company founded in 2003 by Elon Musk. The company has been developing electric cars, Lithium-ion batteries, and solar panels since then and has been into creating self-driving cars. In April 2017, Tesla has become the most expensive carmaker, going ahead of General Motors. It has become possible due to its investors’ beliefs that the future belongs to electric vehicles. Nevertheless, as of 2017, the Tesla Company has become unprofitable, because according to Business Insider opinion, Tesla’s shares value is unreasonably high, and that’s why car sales volumes are very quite small when compared to other brands.
Together with SpaceX, Elon Musk created another company named Neuralink Corp. It will work to develop a technology that will make connecting a human brain to a computer possible.
Tesla, Inc. is in the top list of leading companies developing driverless vehicles. The company promises to build a 100% self-driving Tesla car by the end of 2017. Such an early implementation of this technology has become possible thanks to the fact that Tesla has been installing it on its automobiles. The technology is named Autopilot.
Starting from October 9, 2014, the first autopilot technology for Tesla’s Model S and Model X has been launched. Tesla Autopilot combined such advantages as auto lane change by initiating a turn signal; auto parking; side collision avoidance if another vehicle is too close; auto speed control by reading speed limit signs and tracking other vehicles movements; auto braking features in case of potential car accident. This software works on Hardware 1.0 that has been created together with Israeli technological company Mobileye (the partnership with Mobileye was ceased in 2016).
In a year after the autopilot program was launched, exactly in October 2015, the software update (version 7.0) was introduced, and version 7.1 was launched another month later. The updates include the remote parking system when you get an opportunity to park your vehicle on a driver-free basis. The technology was called “Summon”.
In September 2016, there was a new update 8.0 that made many little improvements visibly enhancing the autonomous driving process. But the biggest update improved radar signal processing which made it possible for Tesla’s self-driving car to ‘see’ the road better in bad weather conditions or bright sunlight when cameras alone couldn’t handle the situation.
Starting from October 2016, all vehicles produced by Tesla’s factories are equipped with Hardware 2.0. It includes everything necessary for Tesla self-driving cars. The hardware suite includes: 8 cameras installed around the vehicle and giving a 360-degree view; 12 ultrasonic sensors which allow tracking objects around the car together with the cameras; front radar that is capable of seeing through the fog, rain, bright sunlight, and vehicles; powerFULL Nvidia Drive PX 2 GPU with 40 times better processing ability compared to the one of a previous generation. Nevertheless, some functions were not activated right after Hardware 2.0 appeared and became available in the next 8.1 software update.
In the end of May 2017, a software update, version 8.1 of Tesla’s autopilot appeared. This update removes the Autosteer function limitations at 55 mph and sets them at 80 mph, and a week after that – at 90 mph. In addition, the Autosteer function doesn’t have the limit at 35 mph outside highways anymore. Instead, it is limited to the maximal allowed speed +5 mph. If the speed limit is not set on the road, Tesla’s car self-driving mode will be limited to 45 mph. The following additional functions are also activated: “Auto Lane Change” (it changes the lane when a turn signal is on), “Summon” (the function which allows parking a car without a driver inside), Automated emergency braking function, and some others.
In spite of his optimistic expectations, Elon Musk, Tesla’s General Director, claims that the car will have to learn quite long to provide perfect self-driving. It is pretty clear, as there are many peculiar road situations that Tesla Autopilot needs to experience before knowing how to act correctly. Musk says the technology is currently in “shadow mode” when the vehicle doesn’t perform any actions but collects and registers various data to improve a Tesla self-driving car.
Moreover, it is expected that once a fully self-driving Tesla car hits the market, the regulating authorities will also need one to several years to define safety and confirm road transportation rules for this vehicle to be used by a wider public.