Tesla reps have publicly stated that the company expects fully autonomous driving to be only ~2 years off, but how close the company actually is to achieving this goal/expectation is something of an unknown.
With that thought in mind, it seems worth discussing here a post that I saw on the Tesla Motors Club forum recently where a commenter by the name of “Owner” related a story (and shared some images) of what he suspected was a self-driving Model S near the company’s headquarters in Fremont.
Here’s the comment in question: “Many people in the general public don’t understand the difference between self-driving and autopilot. I actually spotted what I strongly suspect is a self-driving Model S near Tesla HQ. I blogged about it yesterday the same day of the news of the tragic accident with the car using autopilot. A true self-driving car today has one of these gizmos on top like the Tesla one I saw. Seems like Tesla is progressing in their research.”
Interesting pics — though it’s hard to tell just from the photos what Tesla is using the vehicle for.
A commenter by the name of “chillaban” chimed in, noting that he thought he knew what the gear on the roof was: “Yep, the unit you’re seeing there looks like a slightly older model of the Velodyne HDL-64: HDL-64E. These are 3D LIDAR units that generate live contour maps of its surroundings. Tesla could be using this as a self-driving sensor, or using it as the benchmark of ‘truth’ for other self-driving sensors under consideration.”
Interesting…. On that note, it now appears that Tesla will be releasing a major upgrade to the Autopilot feature this month, as part of the firmware update. The update will see general improvements made to the Autopilot function, but also the addition of the ability to autonomously exit from the highway. Another piece of the puzzle….