Tesla is reportedly “very close” to achieving complete driving autonomy, according to CEO Elon Musk.

“I’m extremely confident that level 5 or essentially complete autonomy will happen and I think will happen very quickly,” Musk said during a video message for the opening of Shanghai’s annual World Artificial Intelligence Conference. 

Reuters reported the CEO saying he was confident that Tesla would have “the basic functionality for level 5 autonomy complete this year.”

Of course, having level five autonomy in the lab is not the same as delivering it to customers. And there’s the whole matter of regulatory approval as well. So this doesn’t mean that level five will be in use on the roads any time soon. 

However as industry experts point out Tesla is the car maker most capable of both quickly learning from an incomparable amount of data and rapidly releasing those learnings to its customers. The company’s self-driving technology is the best currently shipping in the world, and improving at a faster rate than any other automotive manufacturer. While not perfect Tesla’s Autopilot technology is simply learning faster from more miles driven than any other competitor.

Those real-world situations that its millions of cars face every day are critical, Musk says.

“You need a kind of a real-world situation,” Musk said. “Nothing is more complex and weird than the real world. Any simulation we create is necessarily a subset of the complexity of the real world.”

Musk has said that Autopilot technology was basically the “entire expense structure” at Tesla, highlighting that it’s a core driver of Tesla’s value proposition. That’s why the company charges thousands of dollars for Autopilot technology — and has since 2016 — that cannot yet be fully used by customers.

But customers of Teslas today won’t need technology upgrades to use full autonomy when it ships, Musk said.

“I’m absolutely confident that this can be accomplished with the hardware that is in the Tesla today,” he told attendees. “And simply by making software improvements we can achieve level five autonomy.”


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