Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter on Sunday to reveal that the company plans to unveil a new product, “unexpected by most”, come Monday, October 17. Deliberately vague as befits Musk’s social media style, his tweet has sparked a storm of speculation.
Rumors have been circulating since May that the company will utilize a new “triple camera” that separates processing between various fields of vision – main, narrow and wide angle. The use of a more sophisticated camera could further improve upon Version 8.0 of Autopilot which shifted focus away from the camera to radar technology.
Tesla product unveiling on the 17th (unexpected by most), followed by Tesla/SolarCity on the 28th
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 9, 2016
Another possibility for a new product, though more far-fetched, is the addition of a cost-effective LIDAR to augment Autopilot’s suite of sensors. Industry experts within the field of autonomous vehicles, most notably Google, believe LIDAR sensors are critical for producing accurate in-depth 3D maps of a vehicle’s surroundings and thus lead to safer and more reliable self-driving technology. Several sightings of a Model S with unusual hardware mounted on top of the roof have prompted speculation that Tesla might be testing LIDAR sensors, though Musk has disparaged the technology for its high price point and lack of ability to penetrate rain, fog and smoke.
Assuming the announcement is about updates to Autopilot, how would Tesla handle the roll out of the new hardware? It’s possible the changes have already been added to Tesla vehicles rolling off the assembly line from its Fremont factory.
Lastly, Tesla might be unveiling a critical feature related to its highly anticipated mass market vehicle, and use October 17 as a lead up to the company’s Part 2 reveal of the Model 3. Because the exterior shape and general proportions of the Model 3 have already been revealed, and presumed to be the near-final version, it wouldn’t be surprising if Tesla teased us with a heads-up display (HUD) or product related to the interior of the car.