What Elon Musk has to say about Self-Driving Cars is something which Automation Enthusiasts are always in the lookout for. There is no doubt that Elon Musk, founder of Tesla is one of the most influential innovators of the current time. His ability in long-term evaluation of various Technological Concepts is simply mind-blowing. A few years ago, when Musk brought out Tesla, with the idea of fully Electric Cars, most people in the Auto Industry failed to recognize and accept the importance of his concept. But now, a few years after Tesla’s Electric Cars, almost all the giant players in the Auto Industry are currently busy developing Electric Cars on their own.
Tesla is one among those companies that have created a major ripple in the Self-Driving Segment by the introduction of various cars with the ‘Autopilot Technology. Musk has a lot to say on the Self-Driving Cars.
Musk believes that key to cracking Autonomous Navigation is Vision. Cameras play a major role in autonomous navigation. To quote his words, “Once Vision is solved, Autonomy is solved”. When asked on the possible deployment of LIDARs and RADARs in the TED 2017, he replied by saying that it is possible to be absolutely Superhuman with just cameras. The presence of a camera can let you do much more than what you can do with Normal Human Vision. You can absolutely be superhuman with just cameras”. Musk has a valid point here. When it comes to driving, the most important factor is indeed the Vision. You need to clearly have a clear-cut vision of what is in front, behind and beside you in order to drive in the best possible way. His idea of perfecting Self-Driving Technology is by primarily focusing on developing the Vision factor. He plans to do so by a Tesla Developed Neural Net that could adapt to almost all external situations.
His vision is also quite evident from the technology deployed in the Tesla Model S. It uses most of the Cameras, Sensors, and GPS, and not much of LIDAR or RADAR. The Model S comes with 8 cameras for analyzing and interpreting the external environment. This includes Rear-View Camera, Forward-Looking Side Cameras, Main Forward Camera, Narrow Forward Camera, Wide Forward Camera, and Rearward Looking Cameras and Radar. The Computing power has also been upgraded to accommodate the fast processing required in analyzing the inputs from these cameras.
Musk’s vision also extends to having a Shared Autonomy Fleet wherein you could share your Self-Driving Cars with others and make money. For example, your car can drop you in at the office, act as a rental or taxi service while you are in your office and then come to pick you up once you are done with your office hours. Apart from reducing the number of cars owned on the road, this could also help you earn a considerable amount of income.
Musk also hosts a unique view on the Tesla Semi which he shared on the TED. The Tesla Semi is an All-Electric Heavy Duty Long Range Semi-Truck. He understands the importance of being cautious in applying Autonomous Features to huge machines such as a Heavy Duty Trucks. He envisions the truck to be much superior in terms of Weight Capability and Range compared to other Diesel Semi Automatic Trucks. He even mentioned that these trucks could indeed beat out other Diesel Semi’s in terms of performance and speed even while going uphill. Contrary to the huge machinery, the Tesla Semi would also be relatively easy to drive. He is very much confident about the fact that these trucks could be driven like Sports Cars – without any gears and on a single speed. He also shared that it was a really exciting experience in driving around the Tesla Semi Prototype.
Musk further believes that No System is ever perfect. Even the highest technically configured Self-Driving Car has a bit of risk factor associated with it. The probability of an accident with Self-Driving cars is just less and not zero. This is justified by the fact that there is a nominal amount of risk involved with human controls as well. There is always a chance that a human driver gets in the car and gets involved in an accident. The part where autonomy comes here is where you try to minimize the risks associated with human driving. Musk’s view of no system being fully perfect will actually compliment his Self-Driving Technology, since the attitude that says “Something could always go wrong” will enable them to create technologies that can assess and adapt to almost any viable risky situations.
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