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Autonomous Vehicles

Published on September 29th, 2018 | by Steve Hanley

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Tesla Employees Can Volunteer To Test Full-Self-Driving Software

September 29th, 2018 by  


Remember when Elon Musk said a Tesla Model S would be able to leave LA, drive to New York City, and then park itself in the Big Apple before the end of 2017? As often happens with Elon’s pronouncements, there is some slippage between when he says things will happen and when they actually take place. If it was anyone but Elon, people would scoff at such bold prognostications in the first place, but we have learned that what Elon promises almost always comes to pass — eventually.

Tesla Autopilot

Earlier this year, Elon suggested that cross-country trip would happen in the the next three to six months. That hasn’t happened either. All the hardware is reportedly in place on every Tesla built. All it needs is the software to pull it all together. During the company’s Q2 earnings call, Musk said that software was “finally coming to fruition.” While they wait, Tesla customers can pay now for the technology that will come later if they pony up an extra $8,000 at the time of purchase.

Bloomberg says it has obtained a copy of an internal company email offering Tesla employees the opportunity to become beta testers for the full-self-driving software package. The offer is limited to the first 100 employees who sign up. “This is being offered on a first come, first served basis,” Musk said in the email. “Given the excitement around this, I expect it will probably be fully subscribed by noon or 1pm tomorrow.” By the time you read this, the offer will probably be fully subscribed.

The employees who participate have to agree to provide the company with at least 300 hours worth of feedback on how the software works — that is to be shared with the Autopilot team by the end of 2019. In exchange for their assistance, they will be able to purchase a new Tesla without paying extra for the self-driving suite or the premium interior option. Together, those two packages would normally cost an additional $13,000.

Full autonomous driving has been one of Elon Musk’s primary goals for several years. The push to develop it has led to some conflicts with Tesla suppliers. There was the celebrated and fairly messy divorce between Tesla and Mobileye after Joshua Brown was killed in a Tesla Model S on a Florida highway 2016. The company has also parted ways with Nvidia as it has developed its own onboard computer to handle self-driving chores. Then last spring, Jim Keller, who was head of the Autopilot team, left the company to join Intel, which recently acquired Mobileye.

Probably the biggest news in this story is that the beta testers are being asked to complete their end of the bargain by December 2019. That suggests the software won’t be available to regular customers until then. That cross country trip will happen, but it will probably be about 2 years late. Which in the world of Elon is right on time!


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About the Author

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island and anywhere else the Singularity may take him. His muse is Charles Kuralt -- "I see the road ahead is turning. I wonder what's around the bend?" You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.



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