Elon Musk, in a call to shareholders in early February 2018, promised a Tesla Autopilot cross-country drive coming in mid-2018. In the call, he said the forthcoming drive was three to six months away. This news comes after almost two years of delays. In 2016, Musk promised a full-scale test of a fully capable autonomous vehicle. Then the high-profile accident happened where a Tesla driver died while the Autopilot was engaged. Tesla broke all ties with its Autopilot suppliers at that point and the company had to start over. Then production delays of the Model 3, the less-expensive version of Tesla cars priced at $35,000, were at the forefront of Musk’s problems and they are still dogging the company in early 2018.
Tesla put its self-driving hardware in cars starting in October 2016, but the software wasn’t ready yet. Musk said that unfinished software is what’s causing the delay on the cross-country Autopilot test. It’s just one in a string of setbacks facing the electric automaker as it tries to bring affordable electric cars to the masses.
Tesla plans to drive a Tesla from Los Angeles to New York with no human intervention at all. If successful in the test, it would mark an interesting milestone in the race to develop self-driving technology. Tesla cars rely on cameras and sensors rather than lidar that most other automakers utilize. Lidar is seen as more accurate than cameras, although Musk says his cameras should work just fine because of their outstanding visual acuity compared to human eyes.
One advantage Tesla has over other automakers is its data collection capabilities. Tesla gathers information from all of its cars and analyzes it thanks to wireless connectivity. Once Autopilot 2.0 comes into play, the self-driving software’s algorithms can tap into the vast amounts of accumulated data to learn quickly. Other autonomous vehicle fleets don’t have that level of data gathering just yet, which gives Tesla an edge in the race to develop a viable autonomous car. The only thing Tesla has to overcome is itself–the continued delays hamper the self-driving car project and the rollout of this technology on a grander scale.