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Tesla is equipping their new cars with fully fledged self-driving tech (video)

If there was ever any doubt that Elon Musk’s Tesla was all in on autonomous cars, today’s announcements settle it for good. What is reportedly a fully capable autopilot is already in all Tesla cars currently in production.

Tesla Motors announced earlier today that “All Teslas in production now have Full Self-Driving hardware”, in a monumental step towards making autonomous vehicles available to the general public. They are talking about fully autonomous self-driving cars that navigate through daily traffic, plan optimal routes, park independently after dropping you off at your destination, and then pick you up again at a tap of a button, Batman style.

We are excited to announce that, as of today, all Tesla vehicles produced in our factory – including Model 3 – will have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver.

Tesla is equipping their newest system with hardware that reportedly ensure safety two times greater than any human driver ever could. That includes eight camera that provide 360 degrees of visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range, twelve ultrasonic sensors that allow for detection of objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system, and a forward-facing radar able to see through heavy rain, fog, dust, and even the car ahead:

Source: Tesla
Source: Tesla

An autopiloted Tesla should be indistinguishable from other cars on the road in terms of behavior, according to what they have promised. These cars should be able to automatically adjust their speed to traffic conditions, keep within a lane, and even switch lanes when needed, or when a faster lane is available. We recommend that you take a look at the video below that Tesla published a few hours ago, detailing the capabilities of the new self-driving system.
However, if you happen to already own a Tesla, you are fresh out of luck. Elon Musk later took to Twitter and clarified that retrofitting a car with the new self-driving hardware would actually be more expensive than buying a new car.
Nevertheless, the ideal of simply getting inside a car, telling it where to go, and reaching that destination as quickly and safely as possible, is within reach. We will be holding our breaths to hear what the first customers have to say.

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Lyft expects self-driving cars to handle most rides in 5 years

The vision of autonomous driving appears to be a hot topic these days. At the beginning, there was an arms race in terms of who builds the first self-driving car. Now it seems it is transforming into ideas that could change urban transportation on a world scale. It was only recently that Tesla launched their newest Autopilot version with “superhuman” detection abilities and only last week, Uber pitched in with its autonomous test rides in Pittsburgh.
On the other hand, Lyft — another ridesharing service — is ambitious enough to frame autonomous driving in to a near-future time period. Lyft’s co-founder and President, John Zimmer, envisions a future that would see most of the rides on Lyft’s network of cars handled autonomously by 2021. He goes even further than that and anticipates that by 2025, personal car ownership, specifically in U.S. urban areas, will essentially be a thing of the past as denizens opt to use shared vehicle networks.

“You have cities that are mistakenly designed for cars, that are majority paved. I think about things in terms of occupancy. If you think about ground transportation, 96 percent of the time the car is parked, that’s like a horrible, horrible business. Americans spend more money on cars than they do on food, and the thing is parked 96 percent of the time and it takes up a large amount of city infrastructure. [sic]” argues Zimmer.

Zimmer hasn’t exactly clarified how his company will manage all that in such a short time span, but he believes the driverless tech will gradually develop enough to make the transition possible. Fixed-route autonomy  should be around as early as 2017, while low-speed all around town (under 25MPH) autonomy is expected to start as soon as 2018.
Lyft seems to be really confident in building their fleet of autonomous cars. They consider their collaboration with General Motors (GM) — who owns a 10 percent stake in Lyft — to be a strong supporting pillar in pushing their vision.
Autonomous ridesharing is really just the tip of the iceberg in their grand plan of providing the ultimate driving experience. Lyft presented a future mileage-based subscription model which would offer superior services — “tailored to customer needs” — as opposed to owning a car.

“Let’s imagine you sign up for – just like you have with Spotify or Netflix – a monthly subscription to Lyft, you’re going to have a choice between five to ten different experiences. Let’s say you want the car or the hotel on wheels that allows you to do writing on the way to work, or you want to take a nap and there’s a sleeper car, or you’re with a bunch of friends and it’s kind of like a bar on wheels. With the Lyft plan you’ll be able to access those five or ten different experiences.” explains Zimmer.

While he’s excited about the potential possible to address those issues when you transition to a world where vehicle ownership is not the dominant mode, and self-driving is the norm, Zimmer also isn’t under any illusions about the challenges potentially preventing his vision from becoming a reality. He says it’s “not certain” at all that we can make this happen.
In particular, as reported by Engadget, there’s the not-so-small matter of regulation. Currently, out of the 36 states Lyft operates in, most of them do not legalize autonomy just yet. Given that the country is only taking tentative steps toward legalization at the moment, there’s no guarantee the needed legal framework will be in place.

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“Imagine what our world could look like if we found a way to take most of these cars off the road. A world where we can construct new housing and small businesses on parking lots across the country — or turn them into green spaces and parks. That’s a world built around people, not cars.” – Zimmer (Photo Credit: Sheng Li, Reuters)

Furthermore, a lot of critique directed towards the autonomous fleet transportation network includes concern for the human drivers currently employed by Lyft and others. However, Zimmer somewhat counter-intuitively argues that the demand for human drivers for Lyft will grow rather than decrease ahead of the transition to autonomous vehicles. He says, the need for drivers will increase until the tech catches up to the point where vehicles can operate without anyone behind the wheel.
Despite all the obstacles and the business hitting bottleneck in terms of legalization of autonomy, it is no doubt ambitious enough to continue putting more effort into. With so many companies pitching in and working tirelessly to revolutionize urban transportation, it might be only a question of time.