The future is now. At the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai, which took place yesterday, Elon Musk joined by video call and said that a full self-driving Tesla could be ready by the end of the year.
According to Elon Musk, Tesla is already very close to meeting the requirements of level five autonomy via a software update. Currently, Tesla vehicles have level two autonomy, which means that the driver still needs to pay attention and keep their hands on the wheel in case driver input is needed. Although current Tesla vehicles have a feature called “autopilot”, the car comes to a stop eventually if it doesn’t sense the driver’s hands on the wheel.
In the pre-recorded video, Musk explained that Tesla sorted out all fundamental challenges and they only need to iron out the details and to tie everything together. For example, the FSD Tesla can automatically enter and exit highways, overtake vehicles, park, and react to traffic lights and stop signs.
Musk also explained that level five autonomy could be reached only via software updates and Tesla doesn’t need to make any hardware changes. However, the CEO also announced that Tesla will increase once again the price of the full self-driving package (currently selling at $8,000), hinting that it could be available through a subscription-based service. He added that the price of the software will get higher as Tesla introduces new features and the full self-driving Tesla becomes regulated.
Initially, Elon Musk hoped that a full self-driving Tesla would be ready by 2017, but the launch date has kept getting delayed. Over the past couple of years, there have also been some accidents involving Tesla vehicles that got a lot of media attention, although the company said that these accidents should be blamed on the drivers’ lack of attention, not a fault in the software.
Elon Musk’s announcement ties in with his plans of having a fleet of robotaxis by the end of the year. Back in April, he said that the fleet should be functionally complete by the end of 2020 and ready to compete with Waymo and Cruise, but they were trying to sort out regulatory approval. However, some voices say that Musk’s use of the term “regulatory approval” is just a front for lack of development progress. Analyst Tim Urquhart also said that Elon Musk made a bold claim, firstly because level five autonomy is a “holy grail” in the industry and secondly because the current regulatory climate is way behind allowing fully autonomous cars on the roads.
Tesla is about to publish their next earnings report at the end of the month and, despite the global pandemic, some say that it could be possible for them to break even, precisely thanks to this announcement.