Tesla: the future of motoring


It was the tweet that changed the future of motors for us all, no not another Top Gear esq show. A more significant change to how we drive; autopilot. Elon Musk’s ‘maker of electric cars and renewable energy storage’ – announced that “Your Autopilot has arrived.” Thank you Tesla.


The company has been gradually introducing the necessary hardware to its Model S car since October 2014: “a forward radar, a forward-looking camera, 12 long-range ultrasonic sensors positioned to sense 16 feet around the car in every direction at all speeds, and a high-precision digitally-controlled electric assist braking system.” With the release of the latest Version 7.0 software, these tools are now fully operational, combining to create what Tesla are describing as “the only fully integrated autopilot system involving four different feedback modules: camera, radar, ultrasonics, and GPS.” If all works as it is supposed to, this means that the system is continually ‘learning and improving’. As well as driving through traffic, the car can also monitor its surroundings for a parking space, alert you to its whereabouts and parallel park.


Before you get too excited about #autopilotselfies Tesla has stressed that this isn’t a development which means you can stop driving. “The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car”, they point out, comparing it to the autopilot settings used by a pilot when the plane is cruising through the tedious mid-section of its journey. The autopilot can be engaged once the vehicle is travelling over 18mph, and two icons are visible on the dashboard screen.


One early reviewer describes the sensation of removing your hands from the steering wheel and watching as the vehicle corrects its own path as “creepy and wonderful”. Not such a great start. Another noted that sudden stops and the need to maintain a constant distance from the car ahead made the car’s movements slightly jerky, and being at the head of a queue by traffic lights requires the driver to get involved as normal


Theoretically, drivers are unnecessarily concerned about the safety aspect of semi-autonomous cars. GM’s recent research found that the vehicles perform better than human drivers, as they can constantly monitor all sides of the vehicle and are impossible to distract (drivers miss 13% more visual targets while talking on a phone).



While Tesla is at the cutting edge of car technology, they’re the sharp end of wider trends that are radically changing the motor industry. Autonomous vehicles are already being used off-road, which might be the way that regular drivers familiarise themselves with the technology and smooth its wider adoption. But some trend forecasters see a more significant shift dovetailing with autonomy: consumers abandoning car ownership completely in favour of car sharing schemes. One futurist suggests that in 25 years time, owning a car will be as uncommon as owning a horse is today, as the move away from ownership and to a sharing economy sees cars reduced to collectors items. The National Travel Survey shows that the number of young people learning to drive is dropping sharply both in the UK and US.



So does this spell the end for the big motoring giants, squeezed out between Tesla, Uber and driverless pods? No. The one thing that these vehicles will still need is energy, and traditional car firms have been ploughing money into renewable energy over the last five years: Volkswagen, Ford and General Motors have all invested, with VW sinking £1bn into two North Sea windfarms and GM putting money into the firm who will supply solar-charging facilities for electric cars. With no need to attract you as a driver, expect car firms to follow the Netflix route – pay what you go for. So even if you’re not driving, you’ll still be paying.


The future of motoring is still in development but one thing is for sure, if Apple is interested, it has a number of the industry heads paying attention. Let us know what you think on Twitter.


Sam Uppal

Sam Uppal

Sam loves all things style and grooming. He’s passionate about showcasing new technology, helping to tell the story of new businesses and entertainment for the discerning gent.