If you ask Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, the answer is undoubtedly yes. But, being on par with a human driver just won’t cut it.
If auto manufacturers really want the public to trust their artificial intelligence based (AI) self-driving cars, they will need to far better than any human driver.
“Regulators may require some significant margin above human capability in order for a full autonomy to be engaged,” said Musk. “They may say it needs to be 50 percent safer, 100 percent safer, 1000 percent safer, I don’t know. I’m not sure they know either.”
Full autonomy is also referred to as level five autonomy. In terms of the AI’s capabilities, it’s the most advanced form of self-driving technology out there. It essentially means that the car can operate on its own, without any input from the human occupancy, and no steering wheel is required.
Many companies working with AI are aiming to get to level five autonomy with their vehicles, including Tesla. “Now that the foundation of the Tesla vision neural net is right, which was an exceptionally difficult problem, as it must fit into far less computing power than is typically used, we expect a rapid rollout of additional functionality over the next several months,” states the company’s shareholders letter.
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It also mentions that the company is progressing quickly towards its goal of developing its revolutionary coast-to-coast drive, without the need for any human intervention.
However, getting a machine to exceed the capabilities of a human driver is no easy feat, even with the likes of advanced AI. Or is it?
There are more than a million deaths on the road each year globally, so it doesn’t seem like the challenge is that great. However, regulators will almost certainly want a figure that’s much lower than that before they let machines rule the road.
“I’m confident that we can get to approximately human level without current hardware,” confirms Musk. “And yeah, we’ll have more to say on the hardware front soon, we’re just not ready to say anything now. But I feel very optimistic on that front.”
Just last month, Tesla unveiled its new NVIDIA processing chip capable of attaining level five autonomy.
As of yet, Tesla’s motors don’t feature such a chip, so whether Musk’s comments about the hardware front are in relation to a new more powerful computer or if it will create its own in-house chip, is anyone’s guess. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.