Elon Musk: Tesla is close to achieving basic level 5 autonomy for its cars

nanoguy

Posts: 522   +7
Staff member
Something to look forward to: Autonomous driving is far from making car ownership obsolete, mainly because no company has managed to figure out all the potential issues that the car might have to deal with in the real world. Elon Musk says Tesla is getting "very close" to enabling essential level 5 autonomy features into its cars, possibly by the end of this year.

Tesla's recent market performance surprised many when the company revealed that it had delivered no less than 90,000 vehicles in the second quarter of this year, which is even more impressive when you account for the pandemic-related factory shutdowns. And while the company briefly became the most valuable carmaker thanks to investor enthusiasm, it's easy to overlook Tesla's big plan for the future.

During a Q&A session at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference today, Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed that the company is making significant progress with Autopilot's self-driving capabilities.

It's not the first time Musk has made such a bold claim. However, this time he's "confident that we will have the basic functionality of level-five autonomy complete this year." The company has evidently figured out the biggest problems that its vehicles face when operating without a human behind the wheel.

However, that would be a massive leap over the capabilities in Tesla's self-driving system, which is more of a level two in terms of autonomy. Such a system is only capable of offering driver assistance in certain circumstances, while the driver must continue to pay full attention to the road environment and perform some of the driving subtasks that the car can't reliably perform by itself.

That said, Musk was careful not to suggest that Tesla cars will be able to take over the driving in all situations when they receive the new system update, which would imply that they're level 5 "feature complete." Instead, he reiterated that there are many small problems left to solve and test against in the real world before such a claim would be valid.

And that brings us to Musk's real intent with Tesla - creating one of the largest fleets of robotaxis around before other carmakers get a chance to do so. If we go by Bloomberg, just the US market alone will be worth $1 trillion by 2040 thanks to more than 27 million cars being available for people to summon as quickly as they would an Uber.

Musk also noted that he thinks all the capabilities needed for level 5 autonomy can be achieved with the current self-driving hardware in Tesla cars through software updates. To that end, the company will have to get as many vehicles on the road as possible, feeding large amounts of information back to several neural networks and training them to improve the Tesla self-driving system's software.

In the meantime, other companies are scrambling to get fleets of robotaxis on the street, albeit with different approaches.

For example, Argo AI—which is backed by Ford and Volkswagen—is exploring ways to make such a business sustainable in the long term. Self-driving vehicles might break down sooner than regular cars, and their continued development is a considerable ongoing expense.

Alphabet subsidiary Waymo has been doing limited trials of its autonomous cars in Phoenix, Arizona, without safety drivers through the Waymo One program. Waymo One has recorded tens of millions of miles of driving distance on public roads. However, you're more likely to see package deliveries through those Chrysler Pacifica minivans before you'll be able to get around in one.

In China, Didi Chuxing is already testing a robotaxi fleet of level four autonomous cars with free rides through its ride-hailing app, with plans to expand outside the country next year.

Image credit: Christopher Lyzcen

Permalink to story.

 

brucek

Posts: 422   +483
Exciting if true. I bought my last car a couple years ago, and at the time was hoping it would be the last car designed around a human driver I'd ever buy. I'd like for my next one - say in 10 years or so - to have an interior design like an office / living room, and even better to be able to do some errands without me even being in the car at all (I.e., starbucks drive thru run.)

 
  • Like
Reactions: Reehahs and DaveBG

tygrus

Posts: 11   +5
The last few attempts at Tesla car autonomy ended in a few disasters when drivers were not watching (driver responsible for trusting it and ignoring the rule to watch the road).

Autopilot in current Tesla cars are not intended for full autonomy and require the driver to be vigilant for good reasons. While some drivers have taken greater risks when trusting it and died in the process. Full car autonomy works in controlled environments, not so good in the real world and expected situations and unexpected sensor input.
 

Jerry in WA

Posts: 84   +78
When you can pass out, alone, in the back of the car, as it drives you home.... THAT is fully autonomous. If it requires any of your attention, it's still just a really fancy cruise control system.

I'm not a fan of the reckless way Tesla (Elon?) markets their capabilities as "fully autonomous" when it is nowhere near meeting that definition.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 7,213   +5,598
After countless promises (all broken), millions of dollars invested and complete failures .... they are giving it one more try ..... no thanks!
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 1,903   +2,273
Sure it is. Meanwhile, getting lane keep assist to drive better then a drunken sailor and keeping sensors working in heavy snow are just oo much for these companies to figure out.

Given the most powerful AI supercomputers are about rat intelligence level, I doubt a tiny on board PC in a car is going to be capable of making driving decisions anytime soon. This is all just posturing to keep the venture capital funding rolling in to keep tesla afloat as earlier investments start coming due.
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,523   +846
Exciting if true. I bought my last car a couple years ago, and at the time was hoping it would be the last car designed around a human driver I'd ever buy. I'd like for my next one - say in 10 years or so - to have an interior design like an office / living room, and even better to be able to do some errands without me even being in the car at all (I.e., starbucks drive thru run.)
If Tesla gets their way, it'll be the last car you buy. Period. Rather than own your own autonomous car, most auto manufacturers want you to 'rideshare' an autonomous car - which I don't think will ever be popular outside of metro areas. Imo, its just a bad idea all around. I don't want to get into a car that has a revolving door of unsupervised people in it all day - even if they do an excellent job cleaning every car between each pickup.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Reehahs

AfraidOfTheWind

Posts: 14   +5
Another year, another promise to have autonomous cars on the road in 6 months. Self driving has the worst track record of any tech project making nothing but promises. L5 means the car drives itself to the extent it doesn't need a steering wheel, what the hell is a 'basic' version of that? Tesla can do it, but not this year, more years are needed.
 

scavengerspc

Posts: 449   +308
TechSpot Elite
Elon is about as close to Level-5 as I am to having a 12-inch...
Truth be told, I do have a 12 incher. In fact I have hundreds of them. The last one I bought was in the late 80s or early 90s. Aerosmith Pump, only because the CD was sold out.

Back to topic. I will believe in "Level 5 autonomy" when I see a car next to me with nobody in the front seat. I'm not a doubter in the future of the tech, I'm a doubter in Tesla's timeline.
 
So, what does a self driving car do when it comes upon an accident where emergency personnel are directing traffic??? I love technology, but cars should never get to the point that they drive themselves to such a level that drivers no longer pay full attention. We have enough problems with distracted drivers as it is. Wonder why your insurance rates have skyrocketed over the past few years? Just ask your agent. It's because distracted drivers are causing so many accidents. All those tech features on your new car that are designed to make driving safer are actually making it more dangerous, because they are distracting drivers, and lulling them into a false sense of safety.
 

sreams

Posts: 38   +34
The last few attempts at Tesla car autonomy ended in a few disasters when drivers were not watching (driver responsible for trusting it and ignoring the rule to watch the road).

Autopilot in current Tesla cars are not intended for full autonomy and require the driver to be vigilant for good reasons. While some drivers have taken greater risks when trusting it and died in the process. Full car autonomy works in controlled environments, not so good in the real world and expected situations and unexpected sensor input.
The scenarios you refer to did not involve "attempts at Tesla car autonomy". Up until now, Tesla Autopilot is a glorified cruise control that *requires* the driver be involved. In every case you refer to, the driver failed to be involved.

What is being brought up now is FSD (Full Self Driving), which has not been made available to any end user up to this point. I'll be impressed if they pull this off this year... but let's not conflate what is effectively cruise control with what Mr. Musk is referring to in this latest statement.
 

DaveBG

Posts: 495   +199
So, what does a self driving car do when it comes upon an accident where emergency personnel are directing traffic??? I love technology, but cars should never get to the point that they drive themselves to such a level that drivers no longer pay full attention. We have enough problems with distracted drivers as it is. Wonder why your insurance rates have skyrocketed over the past few years? Just ask your agent. It's because distracted drivers are causing so many accidents. All those tech features on your new car that are designed to make driving safer are actually making it more dangerous, because they are distracting drivers, and lulling them into a false sense of safety.
It will stop and wait. Also the personnel will know how to direct such car. Autonomous cars are many many times safer than other cars today. And this is going to improve.
 

Reehahs

Posts: 914   +570
If Tesla gets their way, it'll be the last car you buy. Period. Rather than own your own autonomous car, most auto manufacturers want you to 'rideshare' an autonomous car - which I don't think will ever be popular outside of metro areas. Imo, its just a bad idea all around. I don't want to get into a car that has a revolving door of unsupervised people in it all day - even if they do an excellent job cleaning every car between each pickup.
For some people in a crowded city, Uber is more than enough.
 

DaveBG

Posts: 495   +199
Its funny how the haters that inhale coal and diesel fumes can only now deny it but not bring any information how close are their favorite auto makers, or how far is Musk... is their bul***t book getting empty?
 

jpuroila

Posts: 198   +100
So, what does a self driving car do when it comes upon an accident where emergency personnel are directing traffic??? I love technology, but cars should never get to the point that they drive themselves to such a level that drivers no longer pay full attention. We have enough problems with distracted drivers as it is. Wonder why your insurance rates have skyrocketed over the past few years? Just ask your agent. It's because distracted drivers are causing so many accidents. All those tech features on your new car that are designed to make driving safer are actually making it more dangerous, because they are distracting drivers, and lulling them into a false sense of safety.
Distracted drivers are exactly the problem self-driving cars will solve(that is, when they become actually self-driving - so not for at least several years). No driver, no problem.
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,523   +846
The scenarios you refer to did not involve "attempts at Tesla car autonomy". Up until now, Tesla Autopilot is a glorified cruise control that *requires* the driver be involved. In every case you refer to, the driver failed to be involved.

What is being brought up now is FSD (Full Self Driving), which has not been made available to any end user up to this point. I'll be impressed if they pull this off this year... but let's not conflate what is effectively cruise control with what Mr. Musk is referring to in this latest statement.
I can see them maybe getting FSD working on highways only, but it is not ready for city streets, neighborhoods, or even winding backcountry roads. The trick is how do they explain it to the customer that 'you can let the car drive itself on this six lane highway, but not this 2-lane highway-like road that allows passing'?
 

sreams

Posts: 38   +34
I can see them maybe getting FSD working on highways only, but it is not ready for city streets, neighborhoods, or even winding backcountry roads. The trick is how do they explain it to the customer that 'you can let the car drive itself on this six lane highway, but not this 2-lane highway-like road that allows passing'?
The version that is available to the public is not the same as the versions they are testing internally. We have no idea how ready it is.