Tesla’s CEO now says that he expects the technology will start to be widespread in any aspect of driving as soon as within “the next 18 months.”
Musk’s timeline for the advent of self-driving technology is especially interesting to many Tesla owners who bought the automaker’s recent vehicles equipped with Autopilot 2.0 (and 2.5) hardware, which supposedly should eventually enable fully self-driving capability with future software updates.
He has recently been advancing a “two-year” timeline and now during a Q&A session at SXSW today, Musk added that he thinks “self-driving will encompass all modes of driving by the end of the next year.”
While he wasn’t directly talking about Tesla, he previously stated that the automaker aimed to be the first to market with a fully self-driving technology safer than human drivers.
During the Q&A, Musk also added that he thinks Autopilot 2.0 will be “2 to 3 times” safer than human drivers.
Musk has often put forward this timeline of self-driving being just “two years” away since back in 2015 when Tesla was just starting to work on Autopilot.
Last year, Musk said that Tesla was aiming for level 5 autonomy, the highest level, which allows the “driver” to sleep in the car. His timeline for this was, at that time, two years out.
Tesla already sells vehicles with the ‘Fully Self-Driving’ feature, which is currently disabled. However, the company claims they will eventually enable it through software updates as soon as they can demonstrate it to be safer than humans and that regulations allow it.
A demo of this feature was supposed to happen with a coast-to-coast test drive by the end of last.
Last month, Musk said that they could currently achieve a coast-to-coast drive, but they would have to create custom code to “game” a route instead of a general level 4 or 5 autonomous system.
He expects the real ‘Fully Self-Driving Capability’ to be demonstrated in the next “3 to 6 months” and that owners will start to see new features built on the technology.
When launching Autopilot 2.0 at the end of 2016, Musk said that those features would start being pushed to the fleet in 2017, but he later admitted that the development process was more difficult than anticipated and Tesla has fallen behind.
It’s hard to reconcile all of Elon’s predictions when it comes to Autopilot and self-driving in general, but “encompassing all modes of driving by the end of 2019” is one of the clearest timelines we have ever gotten from him.
That sounds like a fully autonomous level 5 systems, which Elon already said was the goal of Autopilot 2.0, but that’s already a full year late.
The way I see it, and please take this with a grain of salt since I’m just trying to interpret Elon’s comment, is that the “3 to 6 months” timeline for ‘Fully Self-Driving Capability’ is going to be for some significant Autopilot updates which will start to show differences between the ‘Enhanced Autopilot’ package and ‘Fully Self-Driving Capability’ package, which make use of more active cameras.
That should eventually lead to level 4 autonomous driving and then later on level 5 as he stated during the Q&A today.
Of course, Elon has been “too optimistic” about his timeline in the past. It’s something that he himself admitted during the Q&A and he added that he is trying to “recalibrate.”