Elon Musk is known for saying, as well as doing, some incredible things. The eccentric owner of SpaceX, who is still riding high on his company’s historic vertical rocket landing, has commented once again on the Tesla. Another futuristic Musk project, the ambitious CEO predicts that these nearly autonomous, self-driving cars will be able to drive from one side of the country to the other all by themselves no later than 2018, as reported by The Verge.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration delineates five levels of vehicle automation. At zero, the driver has complete control of the vehicle; at four, the vehicle has control of all functions, including whether or not the driver is even in the car at the time. Level four is Musk’s ultimate aim.
A clear competitor to the likes of Google, who have their own self-driving car with its own moral and technological complexities, Musk hopes that his car will be the leader in this currently fairly niche field. “I actually think, and I might be slightly optimistic on this, within two years you’ll be able to summon your car from across the country,” he said, as reported by the Guardian.
A tweet of his suggests that a Tesla vehicle could make its way from New York City to Los Angeles all by itself. “Ultimately you’ll be able to summon your car anywhere… your car can get to you,” Musk said, according to The Verge.
In ~2 years, summon should work anywhere connected by land & not blocked by borders, eg you're in LA and the car is in NY
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 10, 2016
“Summon,” as the recall feature is known, can be activated from the car key in your pocket. Previously a feature that just allowed the car to park itself, with or without a passenger, Musk predicts that Summon will be updated enough in the next two years that it will be able to essentially home in on your position from anywhere in the country.
At this point, you may be wondering how the electric cars charge themselves throughout their epic cross-country journeys, but Musk has a solution, stating that this is what those eerie metallic snakes unveiled last year are for. These chrome-colored tubes will automatically home in on the car’s charge point, plug themselves in, and within moments the car is good to go. According to Musk, the Tesla will be able to do all this itself by 2018.
On the phone to reporters, Musk confessed his predictions may have been somewhat optimistic, but he is nonetheless confident that a simple software update and the proliferation of the charging snakes across the country is all that’s required. “We do need more sensors than the car currently has to achieve that goal,” he commented.
“You need a lot of redundancy… more cameras, more radars, redundant power buses… so that any system can fail in the car and it doesn’t need to backup to a driver.” So although the Teslas themselves may not be completely autonomous by 2018, he is confident that the appropriate technological advancements will be in place by that point.