Self-Driving Tesla Electric Cars Coming, Courtesy Of Google?

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Google's Self-Driving Toyota Prius

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Love or hate Tesla Motors (NSDQ:TSLA) and its CEO Elon Musk, it's hard to deny that he's ahead of the curve when it comes to developing new cars.

So when Musk says self-driving or autonomous technology is the next logical step in the evolution of the car, you take notice.

According to Bloomberg, Musk is considering the potential of driverless technology for Tesla's vehicles, and has even spoken with Google about it.

Google's own self-driving fleet of cars have hit headlines worldwide over the last few years, the technology now advanced enough that some states have legislation in place for the cars to drive without drivers, even though no production model is currently available.

Musk says he prefers the term 'autopilot' to self-driving, though.

"I like the word autopilot more than I like the word self- driving," he said in an interview.

"Self-driving sounds like it’s going to do something you don’t want it to do. Autopilot is a good thing to have in planes, and we should have it in cars." He added, "Self-driving cars are the natural extension of active safety and obviously something we should do."

He hasn't made it overly clear that Tesla is working on such a system--with or without Google--but it's certainly a possibility. “I think Tesla will most likely develop its own autopilot system for the car... However, it is also possible that we do something jointly with Google" he said in an email to Bloomberg.

Affordable electric cars: More important

At the same time, it's unlikely to appear any time soon. He later tweeted, "Creating an autopilot for cars at Tesla is an important, but not yet top priority. Still a few years from production"

"Am a fan of Larry, Sergey & Google in general, but self-driving cars comments to Bloomberg were just off-the-cuff... No big announcement here."

If Tesla goes its own way with autonomous technology, it's because Musk prefers a more cost-effective camera-based system, rather than the LIDAR (effectively light-based radar) used by Google.

He deems the sensor system "too expensive", at a time when Tesla's priority is to bring down the cost of its electric cars to make them more accessible--a plan which also involves bringing a smaller, $30,000 electric sedan to the market in the next few years.

The company is also thought to be developing interim technologies like lane departure warning, blind spot detection and cruise control, as revealed on a Tesla Model S menu graphic.

The prospect of an autopilot mode on Tesla's products is certainly an interesting one--but not quite as interesting as the company's future product line...


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Comments (12)
  1. At least its clear who to blame in case of an accident: the carmaker. So to avoid endless lawsuits the carmakers will probably require the driver to keep monitoring the behaviour of his vehicle and to intervene when the technology fails. No reading a book, watching TV or surfing the web: just babysitting a relatively slowly and awkwardly operating automaton. Must be a fantastically boring and frustrating chore, especially if the alternative is driving a great driving machine like Model S oneself.

    I hope Elon Musk realises nobody is going to care about exiting fast cars with great driving dynamics any more in a brave new world where all cars are just glorified cabs.

  2. What is the point?

    Prius is perfect for a "boring" ride that doesn't require any driver input.

    Tesla S? That is a car for the "drivers" among us. Please leave that boring stuff to the Prius...

  3. Toyota won't even burden the Prius with this nonsense. Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda has already expressed the opinion that "Control should remain with the driver". Guess for once it's Toyota with the better vision.

  4. @Xiaolong: Here is the point, The self driving vehicle is the future. It will be to vehicles what autopilots are to airplanes today. No air or insurance company will trust a single pilot regardless of his expertise the safety of 500 passengers in a 4-engine airplane for a flight across the ocean under unpredictable weather conditions for 8-12 hours at times when thousand of other airplanes are doing the same thing. I've been driving 60 miles per day average (highway and city) for the last 15 years and the "drivers" among us do not enjoy sitting in traffic while a congestion, which may last minutes to hours and guess what: they are not always caused by accidents; many a time they are caused by simple human distraction, slow vehicles moving

  5. on the fast lane, rain, etc. Self driving will be definitely important when decisions need to be made in a time frame shorter than the human reaction time. This will make "elderly driving", a real menace at times, a lot safer. Furthermore, safe-driving will give you support even when your 5 senses will not be able to help: intersections, fast approaching vehicles on the wrong way, unexpected animal crossing, etc. Of course, you will not have to use it to do grocery shopping, but it would be especially helpful to use on that day when after spending an entire sleepless weekend you still needed the extra time at work to turn in that project, late at night ,and then you had to drive back home...

  6. Driver-less driving will look stupid today, but it will be a lot better sooner than later, like with everything else electronic. It will come as an option, obviously, and will not preclude inclusion of menu with all kind of driving modes, including sports. It is happening in small vehicles as they are easier to control, but the target IMO are the big ones. I foresee highway freight in the future controlled by autopilots for the most part as they will be safer, and they will save time, resources, and money.

  7. So, who is at fault when the driverless car gets into accident? The driver, the owner or the SW company?

  8. @Xiaolong: Thank you for your reply. That was a good question
    1. Who was driving at the time of the accident?. Was the vehicle being driven by a driver or by the autopilot?
    2. 90% of vehicle accidents are caused by human error:
    3. Self-driving will always be safer than driving driving under influence, exhaustion, reckless driving (speeding, talking on the phone, etc.) and road rage. I am not including those scenarios when you would be better off staying home, yet you decide to take your car and go out: you have a migraine, you are running a fever, you have a bad cold, you did not sleep well last night, you have unfinished businesses at home or at work etc. I am not going to include certain chronic human

  9. conditions that could interfere with safe driving.
    4. Humans are stubborn: we do not drive 100% according to traffic signs. We do not respect them.
    5. Now consider the fact that vehicles sales increase by a geometric series: Add to this the fact that cars are faster and lighter every year. In other words: at the current pace, driving safely will be impossible, and cannot be left alone to traffic signs posted on the road, traffic tickets and driving schools.
    I don't know if I made my point already. I am trying to say that car accidents and human violations go hand in hand. Who did what when, where and how? That could be answered by video cameras connected to the car

  10. There are more comments in this thread
  11. What we need is an autopark fonction. That would be really popular and allow to start new carsharing capability. Imagine a low speed automatic car that can leave you just in front of the store you're going to and go park itself elsewhere.
    Also, this tehnology will allow you to get the car drop you somewhere and the car will be able to go to a cahrging station himself.
    If the car is shared, then you will be able to fireup a mobile app and call the car to pick you. Since it's a low speed system, no need for expensive stuff. And it could change to way we use car a lot.

  12. I totally agree with the development of the driverless car. I gave up driving 13 years ago, and now that I am 67 years old, I would never drive a car again unless it was both electric and driverless. I fully support this evolution.

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