In an excerpt from a CNNMoney interview, Tesla boss Elon Musk says that the self-driving car — or "autopilot," the term he prefers — is basically just months away from retail. Here's the language:
Autonomous cars will definitely be a reality. A Tesla car next year will probably be 90 percent capable of autopilot. Like, so 90 percent of your miles can be on auto. For sure highway travel.
How's that going to happen?
With a combination of various sensors. You combine cameras with image recognition with radar and long-range ultrasonics, that'll do it. Other car companies will follow.
But you guys are going to be the leader?
Of course. I mean, Tesla's a Silicon Valley company. If we're not the leader, shame on us.
Many automakers and suppliers have congealed around 2020 as reasonable guidance for when publicly available cars are capable of running in a substantially autonomous mode, though key features of self-driving cars are coming sooner — GM has promised a hands-free mode for some 2017 models, and Audi has been making the PR tour this year for its "piloted driving" features. Hands-free highway driving is easier to process than rat's nests of traffic- and obstacle-filled surface streets, which helps explain his "90 percent" target.
Possibly related, Musk has a set of Tesla announcements lined up for October 9th, where he has promised "the D and something else." It's not known what either of those reference, but the company is expected to release an all-wheel-drive version of the Model S and the production version of the Model X in the near future.