Tesla CEO Elon Musk made some very interesting comments about Tesla’s autonomous driving effort during the company’s fourth quarter conference call yesterday.
Depending on regulators, Musk seems to think that 2019 is the year Tesla is going fully self-driving.
In a comment to analysts, Musk clarified when he thinks Tesla could be able to release its ‘Fully Self-Driving Capability’ package this year:
“When will we think it’s safe for full self-driving? It’s probably towards the end of this year and then it’s up to regulators to decide when they want to approve that.”
He argued that Tesla “already has full self-driving capability on highway” with the Navigate on Autopilot feature.
Currently, the feature involves using Tesla’s Autosteer and active cruise control features combined with the capacity to take exits and interchages.
That said, the feature requires the driver to confirm any lane change by activating the turn signal.
Musk said that it will be going away where approved by regulators “in a few weeks”:
“In a few weeks, we’ll be pushing an update that will allow the option of removing stalk confirmation in markets where regulators approve it, which we believe that will be the case in the U.S. and over time, we think probably all regulators will approve it.”
Next, the CEO says that Tesla is tackling autonomous navigation of traffic lights and parking lots:
“Traffic lights and intersections will be the next really tricky one. And then navigating complex parking lots and sort of like if you’re underground in a mall parking lot with a lot of traffic and pedestrians and it’s on multiple levels – that kind of thing is what gets tricky.”
He added that the advanced summon features that he has been promising over the last few months are going to address the parking lot side of things and that it is coming “probably next month.”
I think Tesla is going to do great things in 2019, impressive things, but I don’t think fully self-driving is going to be one of them.
I’d love to be proven wrong. Selfishly because I own a car that could get this fully self-driving upgrade but also because of the incredible impact it would have on transportation in general.
But I just don’t think it is a reasonable timeline.
When Elon says that they are at “98% good” and they need to get to “99.999%”, it doesn’t sound like much, but that last 1.999% is actually one of the toughest parts if not the toughest.
It’s what makes the difference between an autonomous driving system as safe as the average human driver and a system safer than the best human driver.
Unless Tesla is sitting on a machine learning system that is going to learn corner cases at an incredible rate, I just don’t see it happening this year.
Furthermore, I wouldn’t call Navigate on Autopilot “full self-driving capability on highway.” He has a point because I’ve definitely used the system to drive on the highway for long distances without any driver input, but I still have to monitor it at all time and it can still make mistake.
Any of those mistakes can be dangerous and therefore, drivers need to stay vigilant at all time.
What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.
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