An article recently appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek about a profile of super hacker George Hotz. Apparently, it took him about a month to build a self driving car in his garage and said that the vision chip technology made by Mobileye and used by Tesla is absurd. He even added that Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, proposed to give him a contract if his technology is deemed to be better than Mobileye. In response to it, Tesla said that the company is sticking with Mobileye and rebutted some of Hotz’s challenges about autonomous cars.
On a separate occasion, Musk explained that making a demoware is easy whereas making production software is hard. The production software needs to be working on millions of different roads all around the world and in a wide range of circumstances whether it is in winter, summer, rain and dust.
George Hotz apparently was introduced to Musk as a possible recruit to Tesla. However, during their course of discussions, Hotz told Musk he would come up with a better solution than Mobileye’s. Musk has some scepticism about this as Mobileye has hundreds of engineers who have been working on this problem for quite sometime and therefore, Hotz purposed a bet.
The bet was that the car that uses Hotz’s solution would be able to stay in lane from Intestate 405 from Los Angeles to San Diego. Musk declined the proposal as he suspected that Hotz would make it work for one stretch but it would not work on roads and highways everywhere and all the time.
U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration categorizes the vehicle automation to five levels. Level 0 means that the driver is in complete control of the car whereas level 4 means that the vehicle takes over all safety critical functions and monitors roadway conditions for an entire trip.
Major automakers are working on autonomous driving technologies at different stages. Google is working on a fully autonomous prototype which replaces the driver completely whereas other automakers such as Volvo and General Motors are moving in stages. Volvo recently introduced level 2 capabilities whereas General Motors will offer level 2 semi-autonomous feature known as Super Cruise for its 2017 models. Super Cruise feature will have hands-off lane following, braking and speed control in certain highway conditions.
Tesla, on the other hand, has just released autopilot feature via an over-the-air software update last October. Initially, the feature will offer computer assisted parallel parking, steering and lane changing on highways as well as upgraded warning system for side collisions. On top of that, it also uses radar, ultrasonics, GPS navigation and cameras.
Autopilot also will have constantly learning algorithms and it operates as a network such as that when one car learns something, it will be broadcasted to all the other cars with the same model so that they all learn the same thing. When asked about the next generation of Autopilot, Musk did not reveal much and he just said that it would be a major announcement.
Musk said that Tesla would have complete autonomy in approximately two years. However, he expects that the regulators will lag behind the technology as it is most probably take them about five years or more to ensure that the technology is safe.