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Elon Musk announces full autonomy for all Tesla cars

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Tesla Model S

All Tesla cars, including the new Model 3, will now come with new hardware that will allow them to be fully autonomous, Elon Musk has announced.

The Tesla CEO revealed the news via a press call on Wednesday, with Tesla also announcing the upgrade via its website.

It means vehicles produced by the company will now come with a range of new hardware and software features, that will enable "full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver."

Related: Who’s to blame when robot cars get it wrong?

Tesla cars will now feature eight surround cameras with 360-degree visibility at up to 250 meters of range and twelve updated ultrasonic sensors which can detect objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system.

There's also an enhanced forward-facing radar which can provide additional data about the world "on a redundant wavelength", and is capable of seeing through heavy rain, fog, dust and even, says Tesla, the car ahead.

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Tesla's AutoPilot feature, which already comes with its vehicles, allows for adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance, meaning the cars are semi-autonomous.

But the company says the new hardware will mean its vehicles are capable of complete autonomy, allowing them to self-drive without the assistance of a human.

Related: What is Tesla Autopilot?

Supporting the upgraded hardware is a new on-board computer that will process data from the cameras, radar, and sensors in order to make driving decisions.

Using an Nvidia Titan GPU, the computer will use a "neural net for vision, sonar and radar processing software", allowing it to process imagery and define objects in its environment.

Tesla Model 3The Model 3 isn't expected to arrive until 2018

As Tesla explains: "Together, this system provides a view of the world that a driver alone cannot access, seeing in every direction simultaneously and on wavelengths that go far beyond the human senses."

The new fully autonomous system will feature on the Tesla Model X, Model S, and Model 3, with the company saying: "Model S and Model X vehicles with this new hardware are already in production, and customers can purchase one today."

However, Twitter user Kyle Russel spotted an update to the Tesla website this week which reflected a change in delivery estimates for the Model 3 sedan – which, after initially being advertised as shipping in late 2017, is now expected to arrive in 2018.

Whether the new fully autonomous-enabling hardware is the reason for the delay, remains unclear, but it certainly seems possible.

And for those with a current Tesla model, it seems the existing cars won't be getting an upgrade to the new system, but Tesla will continue to support the current system with software updates.

Tesla says it will not activate the new system until "millions of miles of real-world driving" has allowed them to gain the necessary data.

There's no word on exactly when the new system will go live, but we're intrigued to see how Tesla navigates the various regulations and laws that could cause problems in the coming years.

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