Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Intelligent Machines

Tesla’s First Autonomous Vehicle May Arrive Before the Model 3

The man leading Tesla’s autonomous driving technology says he isn’t planning to hold any self-driving features back for the Model 3, due in late 2017.

When Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk recently unveiled the company’s low-cost Model 3 vehicle due for release late in 2017, it was far from complete. The final interior design, including the design of the steering wheel, is still unknown.

Some commentators saw that and tweets from Musk saying there was still much to reveal and that the car would “feel like a spaceship” as evidence that the Model 3 will be the company’s—perhaps the world’s—first truly autonomous car.

But when Sterling Anderson, who leads development of Tesla’s self-driving Autopilot technology, was asked point blank Tuesday if the Model 3 would be the first autonomous vehicle, he dismissed the idea that it would represent some kind of step change. And he suggested Tesla could create significantly more autonomous cars before the Model 3’s debut.

“We will not hold any technology for Model 3 that we have not released already when it’s ready on other models,” he told MIT Technology Review’s editor in chief, Jason Pontin, at the EmTech Digital conference in San Francisco.

Anderson said that Tesla eschews the concept of model years used by other automakers. When new features are ready, they are put straight into the models already in production, he said.

“Our vehicles will receive the latest technology when we have it,” said Anderson. “Models S and X will continue to lead the way for a while in improvements.”

That suggests that the Tesla 3 won’t be Tesla’s first autonomous vehicle. Instead, when Tesla figures out how to have its vehicles drive themselves in a wider range of situations than just on highways and driveways, as its Autopilot and Summon features allow, all its vehicles will get those capabilities at the same time.

Anderson mentioned that his team is looking at how to automate urban driving and handling intersections. His remarks about how the company plans to introduce new features like those match how the company handled the rollout of its current autonomous driving technology.

When the Model S launched in 2012, it lacked the sensors and other hardware needed to drive itself on the highway. Then in late 2014 Tesla started adding new sensors and electronically controlled brakes to all Model S vehicles, saying they were for a new emergency braking feature. A year later it offered people with those vehicles the option to turn on self-driving features (see “10 Breakthrough Technologies 2016: Tesla Autopilot”).

Keep up with the latest in autonomous vehicles at EmTech MIT.
Discover where tech, business, and culture converge.

September 11-14, 2018
MIT Media Lab

Register now
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Online Only.
  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.