Elon Musk Hints at Exactly When to Expect a Fully Self-Driving Tesla

Elon Musk has long promised that Tesla vehicle will one day gain the ability to drive themselves. The CEO said in November that the feature would arrive as early as 2019, but two months in to the new year and he’s slightly adjusted his autonomous car ambitions.

Musk revealed that his EVs would first receive a handful of semi-autonomous features — but a fully self-driving version won’t arrive for at least another year.

In a podcast interview Tuesday with Tasha Keeney and Cathie Wood of the ARK Invest podcast, the tech mogul explained what Tesla drivers should expect from their cars in the near future.

“I think we will be feature complete — full self-driving — this year,” Musk said. “Meaning the car will be able to find you in a parking lot, pick you up and take you all the way to your destination without an intervention, this year. I would say I am certain of that. That is not a question mark.”

tesla autopilot
Musk says Tesla should be able to drive themselves without a human present by 2020.

That’s in line with what he told Kara Swisher on the Recode podcast in November and during Tesla’s fourth quarter earnings call, with a few caveats. Even though Musk calls it “full self-driving,” he doesn’t actually mean users will be able to nod off behind the wheel.

He goes on to explain that this advanced autopilot feature won’t mean Teslas will be able to maneuver themselves through any situation. From how Musk describes it, the upgrade sounds like a “Level 3” autonomous driving. That’s defined as “conditional automation” by the Society of Automotive Engineers, which can dynamically drive itself but requires that the driver step in if something goes wrong.

Musk said that a truly self-driving Tesla, that doesn’t require any intervention will be here by 2020.

“My guess as to when we would think it is safe for somebody to essentially fall asleep and wake up at their destination? Probably towards the end of next year,” he said. “That is when I think it would be safe enough for that.”

It’s likely that Teslas will become self-driving via Autopilot software updates. Users have noticed the semi-autonomous feature vastly improve in only a handful of months, if the company keeps pace Musk’s timeline might not be so farfetched. In fact, it’s possible that Tesla has already developed the software for fully-autonomous cars, but has yet to roll it out.

A report from November of last year, revealed that Musk personally test drives his cars for bugs using an “engineering car” that comes with a more aggressive version of the software. Tesla could be sitting on the software but extensively testing it to make sure it’s safe to be released