Last night, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that all of the company’s new vehicles would have “full self-driving capabilities.” But unlike its competitors in the world of driverless cars, Tesla doesn’t use those spinning, roof-mounted 360-degree sensors to map its surroundings, opting instead for a more subtle — and dare we say cooler — approach to autonomy.
Going forward, all Tesla vehicles will include eight cameras to provide 360-degree visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range, as well as 12 ultrasonic sensor to allow for detection of objects both hard (like other cars) and soft (like people and animals) at nearly twice the distance of the prior system.
But unlike Google or Uber’s self-driving cars, which feature cameras and sensors conspicuously perched on top like a garish hat, Tesla’s cameras are embedded in the body of the vehicle itself, allowing the car to retain a sleek, seamless appearance.
This will no doubt matter a great deal in as more autonomous and semi-autonomous cars begin to appear on the market, and car companies begin to experiment with designs that best appeal to customers.
“Unless you look closely you can't even tell if the car is hardware 1 or hardware 2,” Musk said, referring to the difference between first and second generation Autopilot systems. “We've been careful about each of the cameras being part of the frame of the cars.”