Self driving Tesla vehicles could be a reality by the end of 2019. According to CEO Elon Musk 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 by the end of 2019.
Musk said during the interview:
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.
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.
Musk expects the self-driving features available by the end of 2019 to be less than full autonomy self-driving. At this stage, 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.