An Autopilot Update
Tesla's line-up of to-be fully autonomous vehicles is one of the company's most anticipated projects alongside the release of the Model 3. Nearly 35,000 people have purchased the fully self-driving features prematurely — hoping that it would be released relatively soon, but that hasn't happened yet.
Fortunately, those Tesla owners have a little something to look forward to, as Tesla revealed during an investors meeting earlier this week that the improved Autopilot functions will be out within the "next several months." This was reiterated in a shareholder letter released shortly afterward.
"Now that the foundation of the Tesla vision neural net is right, which was an exceptionally difficult problem, as it must fit into far less computing power than is typically used, we expect a rapid roll-out of additional functionality over the next several months and are progressing rapidly towards our goal of a coast-to-coast drive with no one touching the controls," reads the letter.
This update comes as a welcome gesture, though it may not be the significant, detail-rich statement that would assure people that Tesla will release the updated Autopilot before year's end. That said, it's clear that the company remains invested in achieving level 5 autonomy, as it highlighted the work done by its AI team in 2017.
"We continue to update our Autopilot software and recently made significant improvements to the Autosteer function," said Tesla. "The Tesla AI team, which is fundamental to achieving full autonomy, strengthened dramatically this year, with a number of the world’s best AI engineers and researchers joining our company. We plan to continue building Tesla AI until it is one of the best teams in the world, not just in automotive, where Tesla is already the leader, but across all industries. This applies to both software and hardware."
It remains to be seen if Tesla's vehicles will become fully autonomous within the vague window of time they've provided. Multiple delays with the production of the Model 3, the reveal of their electric semi, and recent financial loses put Tesla in a fairly uncertain light.
There is also the matter of whether or not Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, has taken on too much and set too many ambitious goals within such a small timeframe. It was only a couple weeks ago that Musk announced that Tesla's cars will be able to predict a person's destination. That said, Musk didn't specify if this feature would be available with the updated Autopilot this year or in a later update.
Tesla is still a meaningful presence in the automotive world and is sure to eventually deliver on its promises. The tricky part is in setting expectations and goals accordingly in order to avoid the delays Tesla has faced thus far. That said, the number of people still looking forward to these self-driving cars is a sign Tesla's huge following is just as invested in these projects as Tesla itself.