Tesla Eyes ‘Autopilot’ For Its Cars

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said recently that a logical progression for Tesla vehicle evolution will in time include an “autopilot system” similar in concept but with less cost-intensive technology than that now being tested by Google.

“Self-driving cars are the natural extension of active safety and obviously something we should do,” Musk said in an interview published yesterday by Automotive News.

Even though a car has no actual pilot, Musk said he liked the positive connotations better from a metaphorical co-opting of the aerospace term to automotive technology, and found it preferable to Google’s words describing driverless technology.

“I like the word autopilot more than I like the word self- driving,” Musk said in the interview. “Self-driving sounds like it’s going to do something you don’t want it to do. Autopilot is a good thing to have in planes, and we should have it in cars.”

Where Tesla would also innovate is the technology itself. Musk said the Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) system used by Google would be “too expensive.”

Its expenses include a sensor system which Musk sees a cost-effective way around with technology that can accomplish the same task.

“It’s better to have an optical system, basically cameras with software that is able to figure out what’s going on just by looking at things,” said Musk. “I think Tesla will most likely develop its own autopilot system for the car, as I think it should be camera-based, not Lidar-based,” Musk said Monday via e-mail, adding, “However, it is also possible that we do something jointly with Google.”

Google did not offer comment for the story, and further, Musk said “we’re not focused on autopilot right now,” but he indicated it has received plenty of thought already.

A higher priority for now is to bring down the cost of the Tesla cars themselves, including within the next few years, new models reaching down to the $30,000 range.

Automotive News