Elon Musk claims Tesla ‘very close’ to developing fully autonomous vehicle

10 Jul 2020

Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Image: ChinaImages/Depositphotos

This week in future tech, Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed the company is close to developing a fully autonomous car, years ahead of competitors.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has made the surprising claim that the company is “very close” to having the “ basic functionality” for Level 5 autonomy by the end of this year.

As reported by Bloomberg, Musk was speaking at the World AI Conference in a pre-recorded video and added that there were “no fundamental challenges remaining” to deploying this level of vehicle autonomy.

“There are many small problems, and then there’s the challenge of solving all those small problems and then putting the whole system together, and just keep addressing the long tail of problems,” he said.

In 2016, Musk claimed that all of Tesla’s cars will be capable of driving themselves, pending a future update. So far however, all Tesla owners wanting to use its Autopilot feature must hold at least one hand on the steering wheel at all times.

Musk’s claim is surprising considering Tesla’s competitors, such as GM, say that their own autonomous vehicles are many years away from being able to drive independently on public roads.

Cupra reveals sports EV with 500km range

Cupra, the sports car spin-off of Spanish automaker SEAT, has unveiled its first all-electric vehicle (EV).

The Cupra El-Born was first revealed at the Geneva Motor Show last year and now it’s confirmed it will launch in 2021.

Its designers claim it will have a range of up to 500km using its 77kWh battery and can go from 0kph to 50kph in 2.9 seconds – an unusual metric given that most car brands advertise the time it takes to reach from 0kph to 100kph.

As a member of the larger Volkswagen group, Cupra said that the El-Born, named after the historic region in Barcelona, will be manufactured in Zwickau, Germany.

“Cupra El-Born displays all the genes of the Cupra brand and we have taken the original concept to the next level creating a new sporty and dynamic design and re-engineering the technological content,” said Cupra CEO Wayne Griffiths.

“Cupra El-Born is the living proof that performance and electrification are a great match.”

Loon deploys first 4G balloons over Kenya

Loon, a telecommunications offshoot of Google, has deployed its first 4G-transmitting balloons over Kenya. The project’s goal is to release a series of balloons that could bring 4G internet coverage to regions where access to these speeds is extremely limited.

While work on the project in Kenya began two years ago, the BBC reported that it was recently fast-tracked by the Kenyan government to improve communications during the coronavirus pandemic.

Testing has been underway since April with 35,000 customers gaining access to the Telkom Kenya network. Download speeds of just under 19Mbps and upload speeds of 4.7Mbps have been recorded.

The eventual aim is to have 35 solar-powered balloons constantly moving in the stratosphere above east Africa to maintain the network.

Chief executive of Telkom Kenya Mugo Kibati said this was “an exciting milestone for internet service provision in Africa”.

“The internet-enabled balloons will be able to offer connectivity to the many Kenyans who live in remote regions that are underserved or totally unserved, and as such remain disadvantaged,” he said.

Virgin Hyperloop celebrates inclusion in US Moving Forward Act

Hyperloop technology has taken a major step towards becoming a reality in the US after the passing of new legislation in the US House of Representatives.

Hyperloop transportation being referenced in the Moving Forward Act could pave the way towards regulation for the technology that envisions passenger vehicles travelling at immense speeds through near-vacuum tubes.

The Act will now to be put before the US Senate before it can become law. Reacting to the news, Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop, said this was a “historic” moment and gives the company “an opportunity not just to rebuild but evolve using transformative and innovative technologies”.

For more than a year, Virgin Hyperloop has been in discussions with the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology Council to flesh out how regulation of a hyperloop transport system may look like. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson also welcomed the news saying it will “support America’s transportation sector in the 21st century and beyond”.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Image: ChinaImages/Depositphotos

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic