Software Is The Last Obstacle To Fully Autonomous Vehicles, Elon Musk Says

All the hardware exists to build fully autonomous vehicles, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday, but developers need more precise maps and the artificial intelligence to process them in a computer small enough to fit in a car.
Musk has kept Tesla's plans and progress on driverless technology close to his chest, but during the company's Q2 earnings call Wednesday he updated analysts on the company's focus.
"Full autonomy is really a software limitation," he said. "The hardware exists to create full autonomy. So it's really about developing advanced narrow AI for the car to operate on— I want to emphasize narrow AI. It's not going to take over the world, but it has to be really good at driving a car."
RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak asked Musk what he called "a philosophical question" about the recent fatal crash of a Tesla Model S running on Autopilot, the company's current semi-autonomous, driver-assistance technology: Would Tesla release regular reports about the technology's performance, Spak asked, and open the data?
"Unfortunately and fortunately, Tesla can't sneeze without there being a national headline," Musk replied. "So I don't think you have to worry too much about whether we'll report it, because the media will and inflate it in size by 1,000. Like last year there were 35,000 automotive deaths in the U.S. How many did you read about?"
Soon after the fatal accident, Tesla and Mobileye, the startup that supplied chips for image recognition in the Autopilot system, parted ways. For full autonomy, said Musk, Tesla engineers are working on the maps and artificial intelligence themselves.
"There's a need to have much higher definition maps than currently exist anywhere in the world in order to have full autonomy, and we're in the process of building those and I think making good progress," he said.
"Increasingly sophisticated maps that can operate in reasonably sized computers in the car— That's our focus. I'm very optimistic about this. It blows me away, the progress we're making, so I think if I'm this close to it and it blows me away, it's really going to blow other people away when they see it for the first time."
Morgan Stanley analyst Neel Metta asked Musk if Tesla had any plans to merge with SpaceX, Musk's space-travel technology company, just as it is attempting to merge with SolarCity, which was founded by Musk's cousins.
"When we're thinking about this," Metta said, "we're thinking proprietary low-earth-orbit network to enhance the connected autonomous car ecosystem."
No chance, said Musk.
"I don't think there's a strong product rationale to combine SpaceX and Tesla, whereas there is for Tesla and SolarCity. It's really quite tenuous for SpaceX and Tesla. There's a little cooperation between the two companies, but there's not enough that it would justify merging them into one entity."

Tip Jar: If you found value on this page, please consider tipping the author.