Elon Musk predicts Tesla will complete the ‘basic functionality’ needed for fully autonomous driving this year — 4 years after the company started selling ‘full self driving’ software

A Tesla employee demonstrates Autopilot

  • Elon Musk said Tesla’s long-promised “full self-driving” capabilities may actually come true this year.
  • The CEO made the prediction in a recorded video message played at a conference in China.
  • “I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for level five autonomy complete this year,” Musk said, according to Bloomberg.
  • In 2016, Musk said a Tesla would soon drive itself across the US, which still hasn’t happened.

Tesla vehicles will finally be truly autonomous this year, Elon Musk told an artificial intelligence conference in China, a move that would make true years of promises by the billionaire.

Musk made the prediction via a pre-recorded video at the World AI Conference in Shanghai.

“I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for level five autonomy complete this year,” Musk said. “I think there are no fundamental challenges remaining for level five autonomy. There are many small problems, and then there’s the challenge of solving all those small problems and then putting the whole system together, and just keep addressing the long tail of problems.

Since 2016, Tesla has hawked a “full self-driving” package that can be added on to its vehicles for an ever-increasing price (currently $8,000 online). Eventually, Musk has hinted, this could be a subscription offering

But despite the name, and its counterpart called “autopilot,” the software still requires full driver attention. If the car does not detect hands on the steering wheel after a certain amount of time, it will slow the car and come to a stop. Still, there have several high-profile accidents involving AutoPilot that Tesla has blamed on driver inattention.

Most recently, law enforcement in Massachusetts blamed the software for careening into a state trooper’s cruiser as he made a routine traffic stop. Critics and regulators have long said Musk’s comments and Tesla’s marketing language contribute to dangerous driver behavior, including sleeping and leaving the driver’s seat.

If full-self driving does hit level 5 — the industry standard for a software that requires no human intervention — this year, Musk could make good on his bold promise for an autonomous Tesla to drive coast-to-coast. In 2016, that goal was by the end of 2017.