Tesla cars are gearing up to hit the road sans human driver. CEO Elon Musk said on Sunday that features relating to the “full self-driving” package will start to roll out as soon as August, as part of an upcoming update to the Tesla Autopilot semi-autonomous driving software.
The reveal brings Musk’s plan to enable fully autonomous driving one step closer to reality. The company announced in October 2016 that every new car manufactured after that date would contain the necessary sensors to support full autonomy at some point, with the upgrade achieved through a simple software update or a more comprehensive computer upgrade. While Musk initially targeted cross-country autonomous driving for 2017, in February he admitted that the company had missed the deadline, but still said expected the feature to be ready in the next three to six months.
The company currently offers full self-driving as an optional $3,000 extra when purchased with a new car, a price that Musk suggested could rise to $5,000 when the feature launches. It’s predicated on the purchase of Enhanced Autopilot, available as a $5,000 upgrade at time of car purchase of $6,000 update thereafter. It also depends on how legislation plays out in various jurisdictions, which Tesla mentions in its order page notes.
It’s the latest in a string of hints about the future of Tesla’s self-driving efforts. Last week, Musk hinted at “way more advanced” Autopilot features coming to the lineup of cars, including the addition of “Summon” to the Model 3. At the annual shareholder meeting this month, Musk also raised the prospect of a free trial for Autopilot.
The next big deadline for the company is at the end of this month, when Tesla is expected to reach its goal of producing 5,000 autonomy-ready Model 3 cars per week, up from its start-of-month rate of 500 per day. As the company reaches a mass market with an all-electric car starting at $35,000, there’s a broader captive audience for Tesla’s autonomous efforts.
Musk’s tweet does not promise full autonomy by August. However, if it manages to deliver anywhere near that date, it will prove wrong companies like Toyota that have claimed the first autonomous cars will likely hit the roads in 2020.