Last week, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) unveiled its all-wheel drive Model S sedan. It will also be equipped with the Autopilot feature. It is the closest thing to an autonomous driving car. But a full-fledged autonomous driving car is still 5-6 years away. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in an interview with Bloomberg TV‘s Betty Liu that, in the next five or six years, the company will be able to build true self-driving car, where you can get in the vehicle, go to sleep and wake up after reaching your destination.
Autonomous driving must be safer than human driving
However, Musk warned that it would take regulators another 2-3 years to approve the self-driving car for public use. Tesla wants to make sure that the autonomous driving is a lot safer than a human driving. Musk said it won’t be enough if autonomous driving is just equivalent to driving with a person. The autonomous car technology must outpace the skill of human drivers. The D variant of Model S has an Autopilot function, but it’s limited.
Elon Musk said he chose the name Autopilot to avoid the confusion of it being a full self-driving car. It’s more like Autopilot in airplanes, where the pilot is still expected to be there. Tesla’s new car is equipped with radar to detect nearby vehicles. Its camera can read the road signs and signals, and adjust the speed accordingly. It can change lanes, avoid obstacles, brake automatically if it’s about to hit something. It can even park itself in the garage.
Tesla to launch Model X next year
It still requires human supervision, unlike Google’s self-driving car prototype. For now, Tesla has several other priorities. The company is scheduled to launch its Model X crossover next year. The Palo Alto-based company is also building a Gigafactory in Nevada, which requires about $5 billion in investment.
Tesla shares fell 0.96% to $227.50 at 11:19 AM EDT on Thursday.