World's first fully self-driving car will be ready this year, Elon Musk claims

'I'm very confident about full self-driving functionality being complete by the end of this year,' he says. 'It's because I'm literally driving it'

Anthony Cuthbertson
Thursday 23 July 2020 15:20 BST
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Tesla's Autopilot software, which relies on various cameras and sensors to operate, can be updated remotely.
Tesla's Autopilot software, which relies on various cameras and sensors to operate, can be updated remotely. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the electric car maker will have fully self-driving vehicles on the road by the end of the year.

During an earnings call with investors on Wednesday, the serial entrepreneur revealed that he is already testing an updated version of the firm's Autopilot software on his commute to work in Los Angeles.

“It’s almost getting to a point where I can go from my house to work with no interventions, despite going through construction and widely varying situations,” he said.

“So this is why I’m very confident about full self-driving functionality being complete by the end of this year. It’s because I’m literally driving it.”

If successfully rolled out in 2020, Tesla will become the first major automotive manufacturer to have commercially available cars on the road that are fully autonomous.

Tesla is already among the leading car companies when it comes to self-driving technology, with its Autopilot software relying on eight external cameras, a radar and 12 ultrasonic sensors. All new models come with this hardware, while new versions of the software can be updated remotely.

The car will seem to have just like a giant improvement,” he said. “Probably rolling out later this year. We’ll be able to do traffic lights, stop, turns, everything, pretty much... it’s definitely way better than human [drivers].”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk gestures during the Tesla China-made Model 3 Delivery Ceremony in Shanghai
Tesla CEO Elon Musk gestures during the Tesla China-made Model 3 Delivery Ceremony in Shanghai (AFP via Getty Images)

Speaking about the car’s artificial intelligence during the earnings call, Mr Musk also warned of the existential threat posed by advanced AI.

“We should be concerned about where AI is going,” he said. “The people I see being the most [wrong] about AI are the ones who are very smart, because they can’t imagine that a computer could be way smarter than them.

“That’s the flaw in their logic. They’re just way dumber than they think they are.”

His predictions for Tesla’s self-driving capabilities have had to be revised in the past, having previously said in 2016 that Tesla’s autonomous software would be good enough to drive from LA to New York without any hands on the wheel by 2017.

There have been several set backs since then to reach the required safety standards, with the technology blamed for at least one fatal crash.

Tesla's range of vehicles includes the as-yet-unreleased Cybertruck, which offers 'better utility than a truck with more performance than a sports car'.
Tesla's range of vehicles includes the as-yet-unreleased Cybertruck, which offers 'better utility than a truck with more performance than a sports car'. (Tesla)

There are five different levels of automation for vehicles, with Level 5 allowing for full self-driving on all roads and in all conditions.

Every major automotive giants is currently working on at least some form of autonomous vehicle technology, though none are yet to deliver a high-production vehicle that is fully autonomous.

GM initially planned to launch a fleet of self-driving vehicles in 2019 to be used in a ride share service, though these plans have since been delayed.

Ford was also forced to backtrack on overly ambitious promises, after CEO Jim Hackett said last year that the firm had “overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles”.

Other companies like Honda, Toyota and Volvo are aiming to deliver on-Highway driverless cars by 2021.

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