Elon Musk's Tesla robotaxi plan: What to know

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Tesla Inc revealed its self-driving plans during an investor day on Monday, with Chief Executive Elon Musk predicting the launch of an autonomous robotaxi service next year in some US markets.

Musk also unveiled on Monday a microchip for self-driving vehicles that the electric auto company hopes will give Tesla an edge over rivals and persuade investors its massive investment in autonomous driving will pay off. On stage it also claimed that this made its chips far more powerful than the Nvidia chips it had used before, but Nvidia quickly disputed the claim, saying Tesla had made a faulty comparison.

Tesla Founder and CEO hoped that robotaxis would return home and automatically park and recharge.

Tesla on Monday unveiled its custom computers now installed on its cars and said the hardware would be able to drive its cars by the end of next year, pending approval from lawmakers.

Sr. Director of AI Andrej Karpathy elaborated on Elon Musk's point during his presentation on Tesla's neural network, stating that Tesla Vision and artificial intelligence are more than enough to perform actions that LiDAR can do.

Raj Rajkumar, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said: "I think it's basically overpromising, which is typical of Elon Musk".

In 2016 Tesla claimed all cars built from 19 October of that year were fitted with "the hardware needed for full self-driving capability", but it's since emerged these cars will need to be retrofitted with the new chip.

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Now, of course, Tesla will have chosen a route that its vehicle can comfortably tackle, and they're not the first to do it, though the car's adeptness in dealing with on ramps, junctions and traffic (the latter which can't entirely be planned for) is remarkable. For one, trashing LIDAR, until now an integral part in the visual arsenal of a self-driving auto, has not gone down well within the autonomous landscape, as virtually every frontrunner in the niche is using LIDAR to good success.

Global vehicle makers, large technology companies and an array of startups are developing self-driving - including Alphabet Inc's Waymo and Uber Technologies Inc - but experts say it will be years before the systems are ready for prime time.

Musk said its custom-designed chip for the vehicle, which he called the best available, was a significant milestone in self-driving.

The network allows vehicles to recognize images, determine what objects are and figure out how to deal with them. Tesla's idea is to create a business model in the on-demand taxi hailing market that incumbents like Uber and Lyft envision - running self-driving taxis.

Google's Waymo and General Motors' Cruise Automation are among the leaders in the self-driving space, and even with their sophistication and the thousands of hours their self-driving automobiles have clocked on the road, it is unsure if fully autonomous vehicles will see widespread use in the near future.

"LiDAR is a fool's errand, and anyone who relies on LiDAR is doomed". And experts say there's no federal law requiring preapproval for fully autonomous driving, as long as a vehicle meets federal safety standards, which Teslas do. "They are great consumer vehicles with really good driver-assist technology".

Also, the two processors are powered separately, meaning if one fails the vehicle will still drive.

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