Tesla and Autonomous Driving: What is Autopilot?

Introducing Tesla’s AI Driving Feature

Over the years, the vehicles we rely on each day have grown increasingly more impressive, thanks to safety-enhancing advances in cameras, GPS, and more. As automobile manufacturers continue to search for solutions that might make vehicles easier to drive, and less dangerous on the roads, there’s been a huge surge in research around the concept of “autonomous” driving.

Driverless cars are set to transform the world, changing the concept of “road trips” for good, and substantially reducing the risk of accidents. Some reports even suggest that autonomous technology could reduce collisions by 80% by 2040. One of the most compelling pieces of technology leading the way for autonomous driving is the Tesla Autopilot system – an AI-enhanced driving assistance feature that’s set to change the way we drive.

What is Tesla’s “Autopilot”?

Back in 2016, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, announced that all his vehicles would henceforth be shipped with the hardware required to facilitate complete autonomous driving. Musk suggested that by 2019, drivers would be able to sleep behind the wheel – although that claim may still be a little far-fetched at this point.

Tesla refers to Autopilot as a kind of super-intelligent cruise control feature. It’s an optional system that works using a selection of GPS, radar, and camera features. With Autopilot, users can reduce their control over the car, though they’re expected to keep their hands on the wheel. The system allows the car to adjust its own speed, detect obstacles, steer, and apply brakes. Features include:

  • Camera: The camera on the car windshield can see traffic lights, stop signs and more, it supports the forward-looking radar to ensure that drivers avoid obstacles.
  • Radar: Tesla’s Autopilot radar can see through snow, fog, and sand to pinpoint various road obstacles.
  • Sonar: The ultrasonic 360-degree sonar in Tesla cars can detect obstacles, which helps to create a cocoon of comfort around the car.
  • Tesla navigation: This feature allows drivers to enter an address into the system, and the car will automatically change lanes when necessary to get them to their destination.
  • GPS: The Autopilot navigation system detects the position of the car on the road.

Understanding Autopilot and Driverless Cars

Importantly, the Tesla Autopilot feature doesn’t transform vehicles into driverless cars. Instead, it’s intended to assist drivers on the highway and make driving safer – but it still requires a person to be present and focused behind the wheel.

The radar technology offered by Tesla provides detailed interpretations of the visual field, making it easier to anticipate potential collisions with other cyclists, vehicles, pedestrians, and various obstacles. The system can also detect markings on the road and provide real-time data for localisation.

However, though Autopilot might not be ready to create driverless cars yet, it is contributing to the development of fully autonomous vehicles in the future. The lessons that manufacturers learn from this technology will impact the way cars are built in the years ahead. Several significant automakers have already announced their plans to develop AI and enable autonomous driving.

The Impact of Driverless Cars

As technology like Tesla Autopilot continues to evolve, the possibilities grow increasingly exciting. After all, any organisation or individual that uses transportation in some way could benefit from a driverless system that makes the road a safer place to be. Whether it’s transporting products or employees around town, operating ride-sharing vehicles, or simply heading to the grocery store, there are countless applications for autonomous vehicles.

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