Elon Musk touched on a lot of interesting topics at Tesla’s first-quarter shareholders’ meeting, but one of the biggest bombshells of all slipped by almost unnoticed, a single sentence towards the end of the 75-minute presentation (at about 15:30 of part 2):
“I think we’re making some really good progress on the autopilot side,” said the Merlin of Mountain View. “I’m confident that in less than a year you’ll be able to go from highway on-ramp to highway exit without touching any controls.”
Now, we car cognoscenti know that autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to change our lives even more than electrification, and it’s likely to come into widespread use even sooner.
We also know that Tesla (and fellow Silicon Valley native Google) is moving much faster down the autonomous road than the Dinosaurs of Detroit. Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn probably thought he sounded very forward-looking when he predicted this week that self-driving cars could be on the roads four years from now in “pioneer countries.”
“The problem isn’t technology, it’s legislation, and the whole question of responsibility that goes with these cars moving around… and especially who is responsible once there is no longer anyone inside,” Ghosn said at a French Automobile Club event.
But Musk said back in September that Tesla hoped to produce a car that can run on “auto-pilot” within three years, and JB Straubel reaffirmed that in October, saying that it would happen “sooner than people think.”
But, highway semi-autonomy “within a year?” That’s pretty racy stuff even for the Musketeers of Mobility. We’d love to hear some more details, but for now, commenters are left to speculate about whether these autopilot features will be a retrofit for Model S, or whether Musk merely meant that Tesla would have a prototype within a year (he did say “you’ll be able to…”).