Tesla chief suggests driverless car future
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HUMAN DRIVERS MAY BE DEEMED TOO DANGEROUS
Tesla boss Elon Musk says urban settings are the most difficult for autonomous vehicles to handle with today’s technology.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk thinks humans may one day be banned from driving cars for safety reasons.
Musk spoke at the South by Southwest event, an annual set of film, interactive and music festivals and conferences in Austin, Texas, with Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of graphics chip maker Nvidia.
The Tesla chief said that sitting in an autonomous car was analogous to riding an elevator, because it was once common to have a lift operator, but now we fully trust electronic and mechanical systems to deliver to us safely to our desired floor.
According to Musk: “In the distant future ... people may outlaw driving, because it’s too dangerous. You can’t have a person driving a two-tonne death machine.”
Later on Twitter, Musk backtracked a bit. In a series of tweets he stated: “To be clear, Tesla is strongly in favour of people being allowed to drive their cars and always will be. However, when self-driving cars become safer than human-driven cars, the public may outlaw the latter. Hopefully not.”
But Musk earlier noted, given the large numbers of vehicles on the road today, that it’s “going to take quite a while” before we see either full-scale automotive electrification or wholesale adoption of autonomous cars.
With present technology Musk believes that autonomous “highway cruise is easy, low speed is easy”. At under 15km/h “you can stop within the range of the [ultrasonic equipment]”, while on a highway “we can definitely make the car steer itself ... and do lane changes”.
The real problem is urban settings between 15 and 65km/h where “unexpected things” occur, such as cyclists and children.
Once those problems have been solved, politicians and regulatory bodies will “all want to see a large amount of statistical proof that [autonomous driving is] not merely as safe as a person, but much safer”.
Musk believes that “the evidence will be overwhelming”.