If you're wondering if the Model 3 will be ready for our eventual autonomous future, wonder no more. Tesla announced that beginning today, all the cars it builds will have the necessary hardware to drive completely on their own if the owner decides they want to enable the option. The full self-driving hardware suite will cost an additional $8,000.
According to Tesla, each vehicle produced by the company going forward will have:
"Eight surround cameras provide 360 degree visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range. Twelve updated ultrasonic sensors complement this vision, allowing for detection of both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system. A forward-facing radar with enhanced processing provides additional data about the world on a redundant wavelength, capable of seeing through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead."
CEO Elon Musk said that the new hardware is capable of level 5 autonomy. "The foundation is onboard to bring full autonomy," he said during a call with press. That means the vehicles can drive all by themselves without any input from the driver -- is a huge improvement over Autopilot which requires the driver pay attention and be able to take control.
Musk predicted drivers will be able to drive from Los Angeles to New York City by the end of 2017, a year earlier than he'd claimed previously. But that feature will not be available right off the bat. Instead, the plan is to get there as it's rolled out over time.
To handle all the new sensors, the automaker also announced a new onboard computer powered by Nvidia that is 40 times more powerful than previous generations. Tesla warns that even if you enable the Autopilot feature on one of these new cars now, it might be a while before features like emergency braking, collision warning, lane holding and active cruise control work while the new hardware is calibrated.
As for safety, during the Q&A with Musk he railed against the press for covering crashes of Tesla vehicles using Autopilot. "When you write an article that dissuades people from using autonomous vehicles, you're killing people," Musk said when asked about how indemnity in the case of a collision.
The reality is that autonomous vehicles are statistically better drivers than humans.