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Automatic for the people

I went and made all new Teslas autonomous, says Elon Musk. You’re welcome.

As of yesterday, all new cars rolling off the Tesla factory line come with full self-driving hardware. That includes the Model 3, which, at $35,000, is the closest Tesla gets to a budget car.

That doesn’t mean your Tesla will drive itself out of the showroom. Even standard safety features like automatic emergency braking and active cruise control will be disabled until Tesla completes more real-world testing and rolls out the software to turn the new hardware on.

What is this hardware? The car comes with eight cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and radar. The radar is a fail-safe for the cameras — when they’re confused by rain, snow, or the angle of the sun, radar can usually tell there’s something ahead. Or, as Tesla puts it, “the car should almost always hit the brakes correctly even if a UFO were to land on the freeway in zero visibility conditions.”

In a post on Tesla’s website, this new set-up is described as everything necessary “for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver.” Keep in mind that there’s no scientific definition of what that is yet. We’ll have to take Tesla’s word for it.