Automotive

Tesla Model S to go semi-autonomous; Musk foresees a future where human driving is illegal

Tesla Model S to go semi-auton...
Musk speaking at the Nvidia conference (Photo: Nvidia)
Musk speaking at the Nvidia conference (Photo: Nvidia)
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Musk speaking at the Nvidia conference (Photo: Nvidia)
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Musk speaking at the Nvidia conference (Photo: Nvidia)
Tesla will introduce semi-autonomous driving features later this year (Photo: Tesla)
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Tesla will introduce semi-autonomous driving features later this year (Photo: Tesla)
The software update is reflective of something else Musk explained at the Nvidia conference, which is that autonomous cars work well at very low speeds, as in a parking lot, but urban and suburban environments with pedestrians, cross-traffic and other obstacles is the most challenging aspect of implementing the technology (Photo: Tesla)
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The software update is reflective of something else Musk explained at the Nvidia conference, which is that autonomous cars work well at very low speeds, as in a parking lot, but urban and suburban environments with pedestrians, cross-traffic and other obstacles is the most challenging aspect of implementing the technology (Photo: Tesla)

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk has a complicated outlook when it comes to the future of "smart" machines. He's warned about the dangers of strong artificial intelligence, but he's all-in on the lesser forms of artificial smarts, like those at the core of Teslas. He's also bullish on self-driving cars, and this week Musk went so far as to declare that they may completely replace the cars we drive today.

"In the distant future, [legislators] may outlaw driven cars because they’re too dangerous," Musk said on stage at Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference, following the introduction of Nvidia’s Drive PX self-driving car computer. "We’ll take autonomous cars for granted in quite a short time."

Musk's projected time frames for adoption of such revolutionary innovations can sometimes be a little overly optimistic and hard to parse. To be clear, Musk sees a systemic transition from driven to autonomous cars taking a few decades, and he's also said that initially he expects regulators will want to see at least a few years worth of operational data that prove the safety and reliability of autonomous cars before giving them the green light.

"It’s not going to all transition immediately," Musk said. "It’ll take quite a while."

Tesla will introduce semi-autonomous driving features later this year (Photo: Tesla)
Tesla will introduce semi-autonomous driving features later this year (Photo: Tesla)

At the same time, Musk told members of the press on a call later in the week that Tesla will be sending out a software update for vehicle owners later this year. It will enable some semiautonomous features, basically allowing the vehicle to autopilot itself (but with the expectation that the driver is behind the wheel and still paying attention) on major highways. There's also an auto-summoning feature that enables the car to drive itself from a parking spot or garage to pick you up, but this only works on private property, as it would otherwise be illegal.

The software update is reflective of something else Musk explained at the Nvidia conference, which is that autonomous cars work well at very low speeds, as in a parking lot, but urban and suburban environments with pedestrians, cross-traffic and other obstacles is the most challenging aspect of implementing the technology.

"Once you get above 50 MPH in a freeway environment, it gets easy again," Musk explained.

He is confident that eventually we'll all see that his vision is better than today's status quo, both in terms of efficiency and safety. "I think it’s going to become normal, like an elevator," said Musk. "There used to be elevator operators and then we came up with circuitry so the elevator knew to come to your floor. Cars will be like that."

Source: Nvidia

18 comments
Bob Flint
Seems going at over 73 feet per second one can encounter an exponential number of variables, than when traveling at 7.3 feet per second or 5mph that most older bumpers can deal with. Stopping distances are within inches not yards. Assuming the sensors are able to accurately see and transit the information at low speeds becomes much harder with increased speed, and unpredictable events will still happen such as tire blowouts, due to foreign object's on the road glass nails etc. No one could afford a system that if even capable to detect every possible event, not to mention road conditions, or invisible things such as wind gusts.
matchesmalone81
I dont want to take part in any future, where driving has become illegal
Donn Taylor
The day it becomes illegal to drive your own car will be the day I stop buying cars, stop buying car insurance....etc. Then you will see everyone stop paying for all this then the economy will collapse from all the out of work car companies, insurance companies, and anything and everyone who works in support services in the automotive industry. Unlike Mr. Musk, we are not billionaires who can afford such luxuries as a self driving car. Indeed, why should anyone pay for a car that they are not allowed to drive? The car companies and related industries should take note of this and put a stop to it now before none of them have jobs anymore. Just my two cents worth......
Magnetron
Who's liable if a self driving car injures someone? What if the 'driver' was sleeping or drunk at the time? It wouln't really be their fault or would it?? The insurance companies will probably have a big say in legislation matters. Will you have to pass a test to drive one? If not then a child could theoretically have one. If you have to have a driving licence, be sober and able to therfore control the car and take responsibilty for it at any point, what would be the point in having one?
Gadgeteer
Donn Taylor, Your problem is you're hung up on your need to own a car. Carsharing would be the future with autonomous cars. Renting cars already saves many people a lot of money compared with spending tens of thousands to buy a car then more money for maintenance, gas, insurance, parking, etc. Essentially, an autonomous car would be a computer-driven taxi. Believe it or not, people ride taxis and buses all the time.
Bogdan Markovic
It is a total contradiction. One month he is against artificial inteligence and other he wants self-driving cars with law making driving illegal. Lolz.
JoeB
I think Mr. Musk may have been sniffing gas fumes! But he DOES make a great car...
Kie
I'd love to see driving become illegal. Autonomous cars would be good too.
Tom Lee Mullins
I would not mind having a car drive by itself but still having the option of being able to drive it myself if I wanted to. I think making it illegal for a person to drive a car would be boring and not very intelligent.
Donn Taylor
Gadgeteer Not everyone lives in a city nor within a couple of miles to get to work and back everyday. I live in a small rural town that doesn't even have a taxi service or a bus service or a car rental service. No car, no job. So, yes, you might say that I'm "hung up" on my need to own a car. Just like I'm hung up on my need to get to work to pay bills, buy food, etc....what I was saying is that if it does come to pass, then why would you want to buy a car? Also, a lot of people would be put out of work because of the drop in personal car sales and related services. That still holds true regardless of whether I'm hung up on a "need" to own a personal car. Having lived in two major cities, I'm aware of this "new" trendy thing called a bus as well as taxi's.....You've missed my point entirely.