After receiving scrutiny from regulators worldwide, Tesla Motors has ratcheted up its self-driving efforts by equipping all models with hardware that could enable fully autonomous driving.
Vehicles currently in production -- including the upcoming Model 3 -- will now have “Hardware Two,” which includes eight camera sensors (an increase from one) and 12 ultrasonic sensors, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday on a conference call with journalists. The new hardware will disable certain functions of Autopilot, the automaker’s semiautonomous software, and Tesla vehicles already on the road will not be upgraded.
“This is different from Autopilot,” Musk said, adding the hardware would be the “highest level” of autonomous technology.
Though vehicles will have fully self-driving capability, the technology will not be deployed immediately. After “millions” of miles of real-world testing, gradual upgrades will be delivered to vehicles over the air every two to three months beginning at the end of 2016, Musk said. Much of the research will be done while the hardware is in “shadow mode” -- evaluating driving situations while the driver is in control without acting.
Musk said the added cost of the new hardware is about $8,000, compared with Autopilot, which is $3,000.
Tesla shares fell 2.2 percent to close at $199.10 today after a 2.2 percent increase Wednesday leading up to the announcement. Shares have declined 15.2 percent thus far in 2016. Analysts have been skeptical of the electric automaker’s profitability since it said in June that it planned to merge with energy company SolarCity.
“The capital intensity of the [SolarCity] business…will increase the risk profile of [Tesla’s] business,” Credit Suisse analyst Patrick Jobin wrote in a note to investors following the merger announcement.
On Oct. 28, the companies plan to showcase a jointly developed solar roof, battery and Tesla charger in the San Francisco Bay area.