Despite recent controversies stemming from its advertising that mentions its autopilot system, Tesla announced Wednesday that it plans to equip all its new vehicles with self-driving hardware.
“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,” the automaker announced on its website.
Self-driving vehicles will play a crucial role in improving transportation safety and accelerating the world’s transition to a sustainable future, the automaker continued.
“Full autonomy will enable a Tesla to be substantially safer than a human driver, lower the financial cost of transportation for those who own a car and provide low-cost on-demand mobility for those who do not,” according to tesla.com.
Automotive analysts had a positive reaction to the news.
Tesla prides itself on being ahead of the technological curve, and by installing hardware that will one day make all its vehicles fully autonomous, the company is keeping that legacy alive, says Edmunds.com Executive Director of Industry Analysis Jessica Caldwell.
“The question now is how and when will this technology be implemented in the real world,” she says. “It’s like buying a 4K TV today. It might be cool to own one, but until networks start broadcasting regularly in 4K, it's just a vanity purchase.”
There is also a risk that by the time all these self-driving features are fully tested and activated, other manufacturers may be ready to roll out more advanced hardware with better capabilities, she says.
“There's no doubt that Tesla has aggressively pushed and inspired more innovation than just about anyone else in the autonomous space, but the way technology cycles refresh so quickly, it not farfetched to think that this hardware may be obsolete almost as soon as it's activated for prime time,” Caldwell says.
Tesla’s Autopilot features are that much closer to actually being true Autopilot and not just a name for a suite of autonomous features, observes Akshay Anand, analyst for Kelley Blue Book.
“If Tesla is closing in on Level 4 or even Level 5 autonomy being released to consumers, it’s a big step for the industry,” Anand says. “The question then becomes how it translates to the consumer. Will each Tesla buyer need specific training for autonomous driving? Whether fair or not, Tesla has been under scrutiny with a few accidents concerning Autopilot this year, and the scrutiny will be magnified with this announcement and as the Model 3 edges closer.”
It’s actually not a challenge to offer a full range of Level 4 autonomous hardware to any new vehicle — this is essentially a collection of cameras, sensors, radars and processors, says Michael Harley, analyst for Kelley Blue Book.
“The most critical piece of the puzzle, which is missing from Tesla’s announcement, is the car-to-car communication that ensures full Level 4 autonomous riding is safe for passengers and pedestrians alike,” Harley says.