Technology

Fully-Autonomous Cars Coming Sooner Than You Think

Tesla says fully-autonomous cars will start production as early as 2019.

Autonomous car technology has evolved rapidly in recent years, but it still feels like fully-autonomous driving is a long way off. The Mercedes S-Class facelift edges closer to the dream of fully-autonomous driving, while Audi claims that the A8 will be the first vehicle available with Level 3 autonomous driving capabilities, and BMW says it will have a fully autonomous car out in five years. Tesla has always been one step ahead of the competition, however, thanks to its advanced Autopilot software.

Elon Musk is now claiming that fully-autonomous vehicles will arrive sooner than you think. During a recent TED Talk where Musk also divulged details about the Tesla semi-truck and his new startup, The Boring Company, the CEO said that Level 5 self-driving vehicles will start production in just two years' time. This is possible because Tesla’s cars are already equipped with all the necessary hardware, meaning that the automaker could create a Level 5 self-driving car without upgrading any of the existing cameras, radars, or sensors. A Level 5 autonomous car can drive itself safely without any human intervention whatsoever in any driving scenario.

Currently, self-driving cars only support Level 2 autonomy which means the car can drive itself in certain conditions, but the driver has to monitor it and intervene if necessary. But while driverless cars may be ready for the road in 2019, regulators are unlikely to permit use of the technology on city streets until it’s been thoroughly tested. Some states are allowing automakers to test self-driving cars on the streets without restriction, while others, like New York, require police supervision. Persuading the pessimistic public to embrace self-driving cars also isn’t going to be easy. Whether Tesla’s plans to complete a trip from Los Angeles to New York without any human intervention will ease fears remains to be seen.

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