The drive for automotive autonomy is being spearheaded not just by Tesla, Apple and Google, but also legacy auto manufacturers like BMW, Daimler and Ford, who are all looking to keep pace for future markets.
Speaking to Danish TV in Copenhagen, the Tesla CEO announced plans for Tesla Motors to create autonomous automobiles by the year 2018 in an interview on his company’s 5-year vision. Expect the line of Tesla cars to get some serious upgrades.
“My guess is that we could probably break 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) within a year or two,” Musk said. “I’d say 2017 for sure…in 2020 I guess we could probably make a car go 1,200km (750 miles). I think maybe 5–10 percent a year [improvement], something like that.”
Currently, Tesla’s Model S can get 426 kilometers on one charge with its 85kwh battery pack driven at normal speeds. The most recent Model S was seen to get 723km on a single charge, though at an average speed of 24kph, meaning unlike its combustion engine automotive counterparts, it actually gets better mileage at lower speeds.
The first of Tesla’s Model X SUVs are expected to be delivered from its California factory today, which will mean a major disruption in the SUV market with its first all-electric vehicle.
“My guess for when we have full autonomy is about three years,” Musk told Borsen, a Danish media company. “Regulators will not allow full autonomy for one to two years — maybe one to three years — after that, it depends on the particular market; in some markets the regulators will be more forward leaning than others. But in terms of when [full autonomy] will be technologically possible, I think three years.”
Many industry experts expect 2020 to be a feasible date for when the first fully autonomous vehicles will be able to take to the streets. Musk believes the delay will be due to regulators, rather than when the technology will be ready.
Musk and Tesla are currently testing out the AutoPilot self-driving function that will begin to be rolled out to the Model S by the end of October. Automatic steering, accelerating and braking on roads, predictably, will be components of the Tesla AutoPilot, but only in nations where driving regulations will allow it.