Remote-Control Parking Is the First Step to Self-Driving Cars in 2018

Monday, 11 January 2016 - 3:20PM
Monday, 11 January 2016 - 3:20PM
Remote-Control Parking Is the First Step to Self-Driving Cars in 2018
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Good news for all of you who are lucky enough to have a Tesla Motors vehicle  - the new software update includes a Summon self-parking feature that allows the car to be parked without anyone inside.

Although still a huge improvement on trying to finagle your car into a parking spot, Musk admits that the system isn't truly autonomous, "It's more like remote-control parking," he explained to CBC News.

In order to park remotely, owners must line up their cars within 32 feet of the space they want to drive or back into. They can then exit the vehicle, but must remain no more than 10 feet away, and must direct the car to park itself, using the key or the Tesla smartphone app. The car can also exit the spot when summoned by the same means, and can open and close the garage door when parking in a home garage. 

This automated system is mainly built for parking in tight spots on private property, since the technology that is responsible for detecting obstacles isn't yet foolproof. So if there are unexpected obstructions to a spot, like bikes hanging from a garage ceiling for example, the car could easily miss them.

The new update also includes speed limits on Tesla's semi-autonomous mode, preventing the car from going more than five miles above the speed limit on residential roads, and roads without a center divider. It will also automatically slow the car down when approaching a curve, and keep the car in its lane even when lane markings are faded. 

Though these tweaks improve the safety features of the car, it's the self-parking aspect that Musk is really excited about.

Musk calls Summon "just a baby step" towards "within two years... be[ing] able to summon your car from across the country... It will meet you wherever your phone is... and it will just automatically charge itself along the entire journey" (by using that wonderfully creepy metal snake charger prototype).

Though his excitement is palpable, even the Tesla CEO admits that he might be getting a little ahead of himself. "We do need more sensors than the car currently has to achieve that goal" he admits. "You need a lot of redundancy... more cameras, more radars, redundant power buses... so that any system could fail in the car and it doesn't need to backup to a driver."

So two years might be a bit of a stretch to see self-driving cars on the road, but Musk remains optimistic that the technology will at least be in place by that point. He commented to reporters that "in that timeframe of 24 to 36 months, it [the car] will be able to drive on virtually all roads at a safety level significantly better than human." 

All things considered, the promise of a self-driving car within a few years is pretty amazing, and something that is sure to be just as groundbreaking and exciting as Musk promises.