Tesla is believed to be giving its Autopilot system a hardware upgrade to enable it to support the next generation of automation software.
Anonymous sources at Tesla have told technology news website Electrek the Autopilot 2.0 hardware will include radar units at each corner of the vehicle and a new forward-facing triple camera setup.
The hardware upgrade is anticipation for progressive improvement in autonomous software.
It’s claimed the company wants to be ready for when the software is able to produce Level 3 and 4 autonomous driving capabilities, based on a scale devised by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In a Level 3 self-driving car, the driver can fully cede control of all safety-critical functions in certain conditions until the car senses when conditions require the driver to retake control.
Level 4 is the quintessential self-driving car where the vehicle performs all safety-critical functions for the entire trip, with the driver not expected to control the vehicle at any time from start to parking.
The current Autopilot system operates on public roads at Level 2 which means having at least two controls automated in unison, such as adaptive cruise control and lane keeping. This is achieved using a single forward-facing camera, a forward-facing radar, and ultrasonic sensors.
It’s not entirely clear when the Autopilot 2.0 software will begin appearing in Tesla’s vehicles, but Electrek points out some recently built examples appear to have provisions to install the extra hardware including wiring harnesses and plastic cut outs for the triple camera system.
While there’s no official timeline for Autopilot 2.0’s introduction, Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said at a recent earnings call the next generation of the company’s autonomous technology will “blow people’s minds… it’ll come sooner than people think”.