Tesla is crazy not to use maps
Every time I compare Tesla with other contenders, people will say things to the effect of "they don't count, they use maps so they can only drive in tiny regions" because they think that's a bug rather than a feature.
Maps are super useful, and a car that can try to drive without a map is a car that can make a map, and so maps scale just fine and help you drive more roads, rather than fewer.
So I made a video outlining the virtues of maps, why they are cheap, and why it's OK if construction changes the road after you map it.
This is also accompanied by a text version of the transcript which can be found at Tesla is crazy not to use maps
But Tesla does have maps!
Yes, the video states that Tesla makes use of lane-level maps in many (though not all) places and even uses more detailed maps in some places. They deny they use highly detailed maps anywhere though there is evidence they do use them in some places.
The key is to use maps with good detail, and use them everywhere they are needed. They definitely don't do that yet, even in Silicon Valley, where every road has Teslas going down it constantly and where the developers live.
Humans drive without a map
This is covered in the video. Humans can drive without maps but prefer to have them and do better when they remember the road. They are more likely to make mistakes on roads they have never seen compared to roads they are very familiar with. But most of all, robots are not humans, and there is no sign they will be as smart as humans any time soon, or that the best way to solve the problem of understanding the road is making them think like humans. Any more than the best way to fly is to flap your wings like birds, though that works if you're a bird or fictional plane in Dune.
How doe the maps get to the car?
99.99% of map data does not need to be sent real time, and is updated when connectivity is available (in particular if the car parks somewhere with wifi as they often do.)
The only updates that need be sent in real time are
- Data from the car if it's the very first to encounter a change to the road, as soon as it gets a connection
- To the car if it has plotted a route that eventually goes along a road that has an update
In the worst case if connectivity is very spotty, you can send the location of a map change to a car that is planning to drive that street so that it knows to avoid it or at least is not surprised. In addition, changes located near the car which it might decide to drive down will come as data is available. Needed data is not very large and low speed (3G) connectivity would be far more than is needed.