Amid the news seeping out of Tesla Motors’ annual shareholder meeting was a brief update from CEO Elon Musk on the company’s self-driving car program.
At the meeting, held Tuesday at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, Musk answered questions on everything from the entry-level Tesla formerly known as Model E to the lithium-ion ‘Gigafactory’, but he also indicated that Tesla’s previously-announced plan to introduce an “autopilot” feature for the Model S was more than a boast.
When asked about self-driving technologies (you can see the full video here), Musk said Tesla was “making really good progress” in that area.
“I am confident that in less than a year you will be able to go from highway on-ramp to highway exits [sic] without touching any controls,” Musk said.
Musk announced back in September that Tesla would develop a self-driving car within three years. He continually describes the system as an “autopilot,” which allows humans to switch between manual and automated operation, just like an airplane’s autopilot.
That distinguishes Tesla’s proposed system from those of other car companies, which emphasize 100-percent-autonomous driving. Musk previously called these fully-autonomous cars “a bridge too far.”
The company currently lists a number of “Advanced Driver Assistance Systems” job openings on its website, indicating that it is moving ahead with the project. A car that could navigate highways autonomously would be an important milestone as Tesla tries to achieve Musk’s goal.
Tesla’s main autonomous-car rivals are Mercedes-Benz and Nissan, both of which have pledged to put self-driving cars on the road by the end of this decade.
Mercedes demonstrated a fully-autonomous S-Class prototype on public roads in Germany last fall, and hopes to put the technology into production by 2020.
Meanwhile, Nissan has built a prototype autonomous LEAF electric car. The same day Musk made his remarks, Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn was telling Automotive News that this car and others like it could be on the road by 2018.
Of course, there’s also Google, whose pint-sized self-driving prototype car has gone viral. The tech giant hasn’t found a carmaker to partner with on autonomous vehicles, but expect it to continue to play a big role in the technology’s development.
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