Up until recently, self-driving cars were thought of as futuristic technology seen only in books and movies. However, thanks in part to Tesla, the technology necessary for autonomous cars is now a reality.
About Tesla, Inc.
Tesla, Inc., formerly Tesla Motors, is a United States-based manufacturer of electric automobiles. The company was founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning in 2003. In 2008, one of the major investors in the company, Elon Musk, took over as CEO when both founders stepped down from their executive roles. While Tesla has always been an innovative and forward-thinking business, it wasn’t until Musk took over that Tesla became what it is today.
Its first fully electric vehicle, the Roadster, debuted in 2008. It surpassed all industry expectations by achieving 245 miles of driving on a single charge, and overall, it performed as well as gasoline-powered sports cars.
In 2012, the company shifted its focus from the Roadster to creating the Model X luxury sedan and placing special charging stations, called Superchargers, in select locations across the United States and Europe. These stations could charge electric vehicles quickly, and the company offered free usage to all Tesla car owners.
Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving technology, dubbed Autopilot, was introduced to the market in September 2014. As the sensors and software were used in real-life driving situations, the company was able to use the data gathered from real drivers to further adjust and improve Autopilot’s functionality. In 2016, Tesla replaced all of its sensors and software with an updated version known as HW2.
The most recent Autopilot updates in 2017 saw the inclusion of more adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, intelligent emergency braking, a driver-facing camera, and a few other unique features. These new controls include Autosteer, a semi-automated steering mechanism; Smart Summon, which allows the car to be recalled from a parking space or garage; and Autopark, for parallel and perpendicular parking. The cars can even switch into “Park Seek” mode, which means that drivers can be let out at the entrance of a store, and the car will automatically find itself a safe parking place.
The Future of the Tesla Autonomous Car
Elon Musk is well-known for his highly ambitious goals, so Tesla will be constantly improving upon its current iteration of the self-driving car.
Currently, all Tesla vehicles come already equipped with the necessary hardware to allow a totally driverless experience, but the programming simply has not been developed far enough to make a completely autonomous experience possible yet. Currently, every Tesla automobile has eight cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, a forward-facing radar, and a computer system that can “see” and “hear” a full 360 degrees for up to 250 meters.
Musk has made plenty of statements regarding what he hopes to see in the near future of the self-driving car industry. The Tesla website cites that the future includes even more intelligent navigation, such as determining optimal routes, safely navigating unmarked streets, managing complex intersections, and handling stop signs and roundabouts with ease.
His aim is to create a vehicle that can listen and respond to directional commands for a more hands-free experience. He also says that the future includes allowing access to operator’s smartphone calendars or digital itineraries to know exactly where drivers are headed with no additional input needed.
The software required to perform these functions is currently awaiting regulatory approval, however, so these potentially convenient features are not yet available to the public. Tesla states that there is no current timetable for rolling out these more autonomous features due to the variability of jurisdictional validation and approval.