Tesla plunged headlong into the era of autonomous vehicles Wednesday, saying it would sell every model going forward with all the equipment needed for human drivers to relinquish control to their highly computerized cars.

"All cars Tesla makes from here on out will have all the hardware needed for full autonomy," Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on a conference call with reporters.

The cars, including the Model S sedan, Model X SUV and relatively lower-price Model 3 due late next year, will be equipped with eight cameras instead of the one currently, Tesla said -- providing 360 degree coverage to see things up to 250 meters away. They’ll have beefed-up sonar and front-facing radar to see through "heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead," the company said in a blog post. The system will process events backed by computers 40 times as powerful as the current versions, the company said.

The new package of equipment will cost about $8,000 per car, up from about $3,000 for the current semi-autonomous Autopilot system, Musk said.

"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," Tesla said.

Tesla made clear the cars won’t be fully self-driving yet. The software needed for complete autonomy is still being worked out. The company also said it needs to prove the system’s safety benefit before seeking approval from U.S. regulators.

The system has been tested by Tesla engineers and a small group of "alpha" testers that has included Musk.

In the next phase of validation, Tesla cars will be operating in the real world, driven by their owners in "shadow mode." That means the cars will drive normally, but they’ll be recording what’s happening in crash situations and how the self-driving system could have avoided them. After accumulating enough data to convince regulators the system is safer than human drivers, they’ll seek approval from regulators to enable full autonomy.

There’s one short-term caveat: Some of the safety features in the new cars will be temporarily disabled while their effectiveness is proven. This includes the building blocks of Autopilot, including automatic emergency braking, collision warning, lane holding and active cruise control. The  basic concepts of each of the safety features has been proven, but they're being disabled because each one needs to be shown to work with the new hardware.

Tesla said it needs to "further calibrate the system using millions of miles of real-world driving to ensure significant improvements to safety and convenience." The safety features will be turned on via over-the-air updates as they get validated, the company said.

Musk made clear he’s confident the cars will be at least twice as safe as those driven by humans, with a long-term goal of becoming 10 times as safe.

"There’s already a significant difference, and it’s going to get better over time," Musk said.

Consumer Reports believes that autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to improve driver safety, and we have already seen firsthand the benefits of semi-autonomous features like forward-collision warning with automatic braking. But we also have serious concerns about several aspects of semi-autonomous systems, including those which allow a car to steer for itself, and believe automakers like Tesla should take stronger steps to ensure that vehicles with these systems are designed, deployed, and marketed safely.