Tesla Motors, a company famous for its electric-cars, said that they’re looking into driverless technology as a possible feature for their future vehicles. Elon Musk, the head of Tesla Motors, said that driverless technology is the next logical step in the evolution of cars. The California based company has been in discussions with Google about the prospects for the self-driving technology that Google has been developing.
However, he’s considering something more along the lines of an airplane autopilot system rather than a fully automated vehicle. “I like the word autopilot more than I like the word self- driving,” Musk said in an interview. “Self-driving sounds like it’s going to do something you don’t want it to do. Autopilot is a good thing to have in planes, and we should have it in cars”.
The U.S military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been pursuing driverless technology for a while. Several vehicle competitions have been held for carmakers and research labs to develop their own driverless technology. Sebastian Thrun and his Google-funded, fifteen man team at Stanford won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and its $2 million prize from the United States Department of Defense.
Google has been developing and testing their driverless technology for a few years. Many professionals believe that we won’t see fully automated vehicles hit the market for another decade but Google thinks it will only be half that long. Anthony Levandowski, the product manager for Google’s self-driving car project, has said that he expects the company to release the technology within the next five years or so.
While Tesla Motors has been in several discussions with Google, Elon Musk doesn’t believe Google’s system is cost-effective. “The problem with Google’s current approach is that the sensor system is too expensive,” Musk said. “It’s better to have an optical system, basically cameras with software that is able to figure out what’s going on just by looking at things”.
Musk is determined to make Tesla cars more affordable for mainstream consumers while still being able to implement high-tech automated systems. “I think Tesla will most likely develop its own autopilot system for the car, as I think it should be camera-based, not Lidar-based,” Musk said, “However, it is also possible that we do something jointly with Google.”
Other automakers have already begun experimenting with automated systems in their vehicles. Several systems have already been implemented into newer cars that improve the driver’s safety and the vehicle’s functionality. Few automakers are showing interest in fully automated cars though. Most of them, Tesla included, want their cars to assist the driver, but not be fully automated.