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Tesla continues to move towards fully Autonomous vehicles, improving the Autopilot function on its cars. The new positions for the Tesla Autopilot team hint that the company is stepping up its efforts to move their vehicles to Level 5 autonomy.
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defines 5 levels of driving automation ranging from 0 (fully manual) to 5 (fully autonomous). These levels have been adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Level 5 is the highest level of autonomy for self-driving cars, where "the vehicle can do all the driving in all circumstances, [and] the human occupants are just passengers and need never be involved in driving," according to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“In other words, driving completely autonomously, without any need for human intervention, day or night, in any weather condition, on any road or highway, anywhere in any city or other location,” says Professor Melanie Mitchell of the Santa Fe Institute.
Tesla's goal is to reach Level 5 Autonomy by the end of 2020. That is why Tesla is making a lot of efforts in this direction. The company recently opened recruitment for the position of Autopilot - Motion Planning Engineer Intern (Fall 2020) in Palo Alto, CA.
In the description of the post, Tesla wrote:
"Tesla is looking for a strong Intern software engineer to drive the future of autonomy across all current and future generations of vehicles. Software is core to Tesla's Autopilot, and motion planning is a key part to level 5 autonomy. As a Software Engineer on Motion Planning, you will contribute thought leadership and development horsepower across the entire product lifecycle in a highly collaborative environment. Most importantly, you will see your work repeatedly shipped to and utilized by Tesla's customers."
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said at the 2020 World AI Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai that the company is already close to achieving Level 5 autonomy. "I’m extremely confident that level 5 or essentially complete autonomy will happen, and I think, will happen very quickly,” he said.
“I think at Tesla, I feel like we are very close to level five autonomy. I think — I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for level five autonomy complete this year,” elaborated Musk.
"So yes, I think there are no fundamental challenges remaining to level five autonomy ...," he said, explaining all the little details Tesla will still need to focus on to reach Level 5 autonomy. “So we are really deeply enmeshed in dealing with the tiny details of level five autonomy. But I'm absolutely confident that this can be accomplished with the hardware that is in Teslas today and simply by making software improvements."
Tesla has already made significant progress in the development of Autopilot. Each software update introduces new useful functions and/or prepares a basis for their introduction in the future. The company's cars can already recognize various objects, stop and/or continue driving at red/green traffic lights, pass difficult sections of the road, change lanes outside the city, and much more, which remains impossible for the cars of any other automaker.
According to Musk, in a few months, Tesla will introduce an automatic lane change function for city streets to navigate to the destination. This will take the company's Autopilot to a whole new level. The new feature is already at the alpha build stage.
In a few months in production release. Already does that in alpha build.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 20, 2020
The existence of Level 5 autonomy in the lab does not guarantee that regulatory authorities will allow it to be used on the roads. Of course, in order for Level 5 autonomy to be approved for regular use, significant reliability testing will be necessary.
But Tesla is a manufacturer that can quickly learn from massive amounts of data and just as rapidly deliver that knowledge to its vehicles. The company's self-driving technology is the best in the world today and is improving faster than any other car manufacturer.