Tesla Motors has more than just electric vehicles on its product roadmap: it's working on a self-driving car.
Google and other companies have been developing autonomous vehicle technology for years (without having yet launched a retail version for consumer use). But Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla Motors, has claimed in an interview with CNNMoney that Tesla already developed a mostly-autonomous car. It will release in 2015. Seriously.
"Autonomous cars will definitely be a reality. A Tesla car next year will probably be 90 per cent capable of autopilot. Like so 90 percent of your miles can be on auto. For sure. Highway travel," Musk said, while mentioning the car features an autopilot system reliant upon a combination of various sensors, cameras, image recognition with radar, and long-range ultrasonics.
"Other car companies will follow," Musk added, during a portion of the videotaped interview posted on Twitter by CNNMoney. "I mean, Tesla's a Silicon Valley company. If we're not the leader, then shame on us."
It's widely thought autonomous cars, also known as self-driving vehicles, won't be ready for another 5 years. GM has a hands-free mode in the works, though it's slated for 2017 cars, and Audi claims to be working on piloted driving features too. Apart from the complexities involved with making such technology both accurate and safe, car makers face many regulatory hurdles.
Google, for instance, built a fleet of prototype self-driving cars without pedals, manual brakes, or steering wheel. It promised they'd launch in two years, but the company hit a temporary roadblock when new rules emerged from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles. The rules required a driver to be able to take “immediate physical control” of a test vehicle on public roads.
Keep in mind Musk claimed Tesla's autonomous car will be "90 per cent capable of autopilot", meaning it will likely boast some sort of hands-free or piloting feature (similar to the ones GM and Audi are currently developing for consumer use). But that's just speculation.
We might know more on 9 October, when the company plans to unveil a new car - probably called the Model D - and "something else".