Elon Musk must be really sick of driving, because he’s updated his prediction that we’re about five years away from autonomous cars – we’re now down to two years, at least for Teslas. Of course, this is also the guy who sort of thinks human drivers will be outlawed, and owning a human-driven car in 15 years will be like owning a horse.
Musk also feels that the autonomous driving technical challenge is way easier than most of us perceive, or at least that’s what he told Fortune:
“I think we have all the pieces, and it’s just about refining those pieces, putting them in place, and making sure they work across a huge number of environments—and then we’re done. It’s a much easier problem than people think it is.”
Yeah, you know, just make the cars work across a huge number of environments. It’s so easy! Why didn’t I think of that – just make sure they work! That’s it!
Musk also took a moment to throw a bit of shade at George Hotz, who hacked together an autonomous car in a few months:
“But it’s not like George Hotz, a one-guy-and-three-months problem. You know, it’s more like, thousands of people for two years.”
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I don’t know, Elon, thousands of people for two years still seems not-so-easy to me.
That said, I’m inclined to think that Tesla is fairly likely to have a fully autonomous vehicle that can work in multiple common situations and use cases within two years. They’ve got a good start on things, and, most importantly, they already have their base hardware platform deployed, and it can be remotely updated.
Will a fully autonomous Tesla require more sensor inputs, or a new lidar system or something? Maybe. I suspect Tesla will stick with their current model of upgrading their current fleet of cars as opposed to developing an all-new Autonomous Tesla.
The most interesting thing that could happen if Tesla does deploy fully autonomous cars in two years is the pressure it will put on the Department of Transportation and the insurance industry to finally decide how they want to deal with the thorny issues that arise with autonomous cars, and how they’ll interact with meat-driven cars and the rest of the world.
We’ll see what happens pretty soon, regardless.