Following rumours Tesla has plans for a self-driving electric vehicle, the company's CEO Elon Musk has come out with more details. Speaking to the Financial Times, he noted that fully autonomous cars will take a while for Tesla to develop, though in the meantime the company has big auto-pilot plans.
Musk says that within three years its luxury fleet will have a car that will allow the driver to leave 90 per cent of the driving to the technology. It wll be a similar approach to what pilots do for many long flights - sit back and let the aircraft (or in this case really expensive car) do the work. Obviously, Tesla will have several regulatory hurdles to jump over before this becomes a reality, as only a select few states in the US allow driverless vehicles. European Union laws currently prohibit such technology.
"We should be able to do 90 pr cent of miles driven within three years," Musk tells the FT. He adds that the project is "not speculation".
Earlier in the week, Tesla posted a job listing seeking someone for the position of advanced driver assistance systems control engineer. The position will be “responsible for developing vehicle-level decision-making and lateral and longitudinal control strategies for Tesla’s effort to pioneer fully automated driving”. In line with Musk's comments, the job listing mentioned bringing such technologies to the current Model S line.
Tesla is just now starting the autonomous vehicle discussion, that perhaps should have started much earlier. The company is leading the industry in electric vehicles, but in some respects lagging behind in the development of self-driving vehicles. Competitors including Nissan, Mercedes, Audi, Cadillac and Google have all begun the pursuit of a self-driving vehicle, with Nissan even making the promise of having one available to the masses by 2020. Musk didn't provide an estimated time that a fully-automated Tesla vehicle would arrive.
Some may theorise about a Tesla and Google partnership for a self-driving car, but according to Musk that won't be happening. Tesla has plans to do everything in-house. We wonder if the three-year goal is achievable, but you have to remember, we've seen the company impress several times before.