The self-driving prophecies of Elon Musk

Photo of Musk taken during last year’s unveiling of the Roadster and Semi.

It wouldn’t be an Elon Musk presentation without audacious predictions, and while he admits to not delivering every promise on time, his team at Tesla has gotten the job done so far, which is fair play when you consider that the Model 3, after surviving ‘production hell’, is currently the best-selling premium car in the US.

In a recent briefing to investors (dubbed Tesla Autonomy Day), Musk claims that by sometime next year, every Tesla (equipped with the necessary hardware) will have ‘feature complete’ self-driving capabilities by way of an over-the-air update. This by inference points to Level 5 autonomy where human intervention and attention isn’t required. The headlines are naturally centred around this claim, which is sensational, if not spooky (watch the video below).

Tesla’s new self-driving computer is fitted to all current models.

To that end, Tesla is already fitting a new proprietary self-driving computer to cars being produced today, backed by a neural network that’s able to learn and solve the complex issues such as reacting to dynamic traffic conditions. It must be pointed out that Musk had suggested in 2016 that a Tesla would be able navigate across the US hands-free before the end of 2017, but that has yet to happen.

But Musk didn’t stop there, he goes on to expound on plans to introduce ride-sharing robotaxis – yes, taxis with no drivers present, which besides never having to indulge in small talk anymore, every Tesla owner can elect to participate in the programme and potentially generate income to pay for the car itself, with Tesla being the aggregator, just like Uber.

No steering wheel and pedals; every enthusiast’s nightmare.

While Musk is sometimes his own worst enemy, Tesla is doing the very things many traditional carmakers aspire to, which is to really push the boundaries of mobility; how about a car with no steering wheel and pedals by 2021. Some of his bold projections will fall short or might not even happen at all, but Elon is reminding us that Tesla is more than just a producer of electric cars and batteries.