Tesla's Elon Musk Says Computers Safer Drivers Than Humans
It won't be long before self-driving cars become an option for today's motorists, according to both Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Chris Urmson, Google's Director of Self-Driving Cars. Musk made his comments during a fireside chat at the 2015 GPU Technology Conference in San Jose while Urmson spoke at the TED2015 Conference taking place in Vancouver, Canada.
"We'll take autonomous cars for granted in quite a short time," Musk said during an on-stage conversation with Nvidia CEO and co-founder Jen-Hsun Huang. Urmson, meanwhile, said his team at Google is committed to making self-driving cars mainstream within the next five years . . . soon enough to ensure that his 11-year-old son won't need to take a driving test when he turns 16.
In October, Tesla announced that its autopilot feature -- enabling self-parking and collision prevention -- would be standard on every one of its new Model S vehicles. Google unveiled its first self-driving vehicle prototype last year and is currently conducting tests on its track in Silicon Valley.
Driven Cars 'Too Dangerous'
Speaking with Nvidia's Huang in front of nearly 4,000 people, Musk said he views the challenge of autonomous cars as "almost" a solved problem. "We know what to do, and we'll be there in a few years," he said.
Developments such as Nvidia's new DRIVE PX self-driving computer -- announced at the GPU conference -- will help speed production of autonomous vehicles, said Musk, who is also co-founder and CEO of the space technology firm Space X. "What Nvidia is doing with Tegra (mobile processors) is really interesting and really important for self-driving in the future," he said.
Beyond the technological challenges, Musk acknowledged there are other hurdles to overcome, including innovation-leery regulators and the typically slow refresh period for replacing new vehicles with old ones. Ultimately, however, he said self-driving cars are likely to become the norm simply because computers will prove to be safer navigators than humans. "In the distant future, (legislators) may outlaw driven cars because they're too dangerous," Musk said.
Urgency is 'So Large'
Following its autonomous vehicle track tests, Google expects to begin trying out it self-driving prototype on real streets in Northern California sometime this year. It's also reported to be looking into a self-driving taxi service that could compete with Uber's car service.
Speaking at the Ted2015 event, Urmson said autonomous vehicles could help to save the lives of some of the 1.2 million people every year who are killed in roadway accidents. He added that Google's systems are conducting simulation tests on a daily basis equal to 3 million miles of road driving. "The urgency is so large," he said. "We're looking forward to having this technology on the road."
The state of California has issued Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permits to a number of companies, including Bosch, Delphi Automotive, Google, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Tesla and Volkswagen. Officials there are also working on regulations that would govern how ordinary motorists would eventually use self-driving cars.
Both traditional car companies and tech firms are showing great interest in the development of autonomous vehicles. In January, for example, Daimler and Audi unveiled self-driving cars during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Apple, too, is believed to be conducting research into autonomous vehicles. The tech giant was recently sued by battery-maker A123 Systems for allegedly poaching high-level engineers from the firm with the goal of developing competing battery technology. The accusation seems to signal that Apple might be looking to enter the market for electric and/or self-driving cars.
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Posted: 2015-03-20 @ 10:14am PT
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