Musk: Autonomous Full Self-Driving in 2020. True?

Elon Musk Full Self Driving Hands Off

Self driving Tesla vehicles could be a reality in 2020. That’s according to CEO Elon Musk who mentioned it during Autonomy Day and also during an interview with ARK Invest, the electric car maker is fine tuning the technology to allow Tesla to have full autonomous self-driving functionality fully deployed to consumers by 2020.

Musk said during the interview in 2019:

Musk said: “I think we will be feature complete, full self-driving, this year – meaning the car will be able to find you in a parking lot, pick you up and take you all the way to your destination without intervention, this year. I would say I am of certain of that. That is not a question mark.”

That said, what Elon really means here is that the functionality will be “feature complete”, but that is different than being ready for consumer use which requires additional testing and regulatory approval. He doesn’t anticipate full Level 5 self-driving (see What do Levels Mean?) until the end of 2020 at the earliest.

He elaborated:

“My guess as to when we would think it is safe for somebody to essentially fall asleep and wake up at their destination? Probably towards the end of next year. That is when I think it would be safe enough for that.”

The expected advances in technology build off Tesla’s existing Full Self-Driving features. Autopilot provides computer assistance to drivers in highway driving environments, including lane changes and exits. Musk claims the new technology would move far beyond that, eventually allowing drivers to doze at the wheel while the technology drives.

Tesla has promised full self-driving features for its cars since 2016. Models produced since then have included a full self-driving option. Musk noted that these vehicles have the necessary hardware but require updated software to achieve full self driving. In early 2017, Musk estimated the software technology would be ready by late 2017. That did not happen. He admitted that this is due in part to the complexity of creating software that can safely navigate intersections. He then said autonomous Full Self-Driving would be “feature complete” by the end of 2019, which also slipped.

By “feature complete”, driver observation of the vehicle remains necessary so the driver can take control of the vehicle if something goes wrong. However, the CEO stated that by the end of 2020 full self-driving mode should be complete, at the earliest. At that point, drivers could program in their destination and ride along as if a passenger.

While two to three years behind Tesla’s initial plan for fully autonomous vehicles, Musk’s timeline is ahead of most competitors. Waymo, General Motors and other companies have generally avoided predictions as to when their self-driving vehicles would be ready for consumers.

Learn More

For more about Tesla and self-driving, be sure to check out the Tesla Autonomy Day presentation for details.

Also see what Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features are coming soon.