Tesla might release its first autonomous vehicle before its low-cost Model 3, which is scheduled for release in late 2017. This vehicle was far from complete when the company unveiled it recently, and even now, the final interior design, including the design of the steering wheel, is unknown.
Will the Model 3 be Tesla’s first autonomous car?
Previously, Musk made several tweets about the car, saying there is a lot to be revealed about it and that it will feel like a spaceship. Seeing this, some commentators guess that the Model 3 will be the company’s and the world’s first truly autonomous car.
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But on Tuesday when asked if the Model 3 will be Tesla’s first autonomous vehicle, Sterling Anderson, who leads the development of the company’s self-driving Autopilot technology, said the new vehicle will not represent any kind of a step change and suggested that before the Model 3 debuts, the company might create significantly more autonomous cars.
Anderson told the editor-in-chief of the MIT Technology Review, Jason Pontin, at the EmTech Digital conference in San Francisco, “We will not hold any technology for Model 3 that we have not released already when it’s ready on other models.”
Tesla aims to automate urban driving
Tesla eschews the concept of model years used by other automakers, said Anderson, adding that when the company has new features ready, it puts those into the models that are already in production.
“Our vehicles will receive the latest technology when we have it. Models S and X will continue to lead the way for a while in improvements,” the executive said.
It means that whenever the company is able to make out how it can have its vehicles drive themselves in a wider range of situations, it will release those capabilities to all its vehicles at the same time.
Anderson said his team is working on finding out how to automate urban driving and handling intersections. Anderson made several remarks regarding the company’s plans of introducing new features like these, and this matches with how the company handled the roll-out of its current autonomous driving feature.
Tesla launched the Model S in 2012, and at that time, it lacked the sensors and other hardware required for self-driving on the highway. In late 2014, the company started adding new sensors and electronically-controlled brakes to all Model S vehicles, which it informed drivers were for a new emergency braking feature. Then a year after, the company provided the owners of those vehicles the option to turn on the self-driving features.