Self-driving cars have arrived: Every car shipping from Tesla’s factories now has the hardware needed to fully drive itself.
That doesn’t mean drivers can flip a switch and turn it on yet–the company still has to validate all of the new features before they can be enabled, and regulators will have to approve it. But the technology is ready.
“The foundation is laid for cars to be fully autonomous at a safety level we believe to be at least twice that of a person, maybe better,” Elon Musk said on a press call.
In 2015, 38,300 people were killed on roads in the U.S.; another 4.4 million people were injured badly enough to go to the doctor. The cars–outfitted with eight surround cameras, and 360-degree vision up to 250 meters of range–could start to change that, once they are able to legally drive.
The cars also have 12 ultrasonic sensors (more powerful than the company’s previous hardware), and forward-facing radar that can see through fog or the car in front of you.
To process the data, a new computer in the cars will run with more than 40 times the computing power of the last Tesla equipment. “It’s basically a supercomputer in a car,” Musk says.
Of course, even if you have one of the cars in your garage next week, you won’t be able to make it drive yet. The features won’t be activated until after millions of miles of testing. “The system will always be operating in shadow mode,” he says. “So we can gather a large volume of statistical data to show . . . when the computer would have acted, and would that have prevented an accident.”
As the company tests the new system, they’ll also make improvements. It’s not clear it works perfectly yet–at 2:25 in the video above, for example, the car appears to be in the wrong lane.
Musk thinks that once the company has gathered enough data, regulators will begin to clear a path for autonomous vehicles. “When it shows a material improvement over the accident rate for manually driven cars, I think at that point regulators will be comfortable approving it,” he says. “But that approval process could be radically different from one part of the country to another.”
From Tesla’s perspective, he thinks the system will be fully ready by next year–and someone could get in a car in L.A. and take a road trip to New York City without ever touching any controls, including the charger.