CEO Elon Musk had been promising a demo ride for months
Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez (AP)

In an unusually tame call with investors Wednesday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk dialed back a long-running ambition of his to send a Tesla car across the U.S. on a fully-autonomous demo run. Now, after suggesting a test was imminent, Tesla “might” be able to pull it off by the end of 2018, he said.

As far back as January 2017, Musk had said to expect a demo run within “3 months maybe, 6 months definitely.” A year later, Musk said it would happen “in 3 months, 6 months on the outside.”

Now, who knows. But that comes with a caveat.

“We could do a coast-to-coast drive, especially if we pick a specific route, and then write code to really make that code work, we could do a coast-to-coast drive,” Musk said on the call. “But that would be kind of gaming the system. I think it’s really important for the Autopilot team to be focused on the fundamental safety of the existing features.”

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That said, he went on: “We might be able to pull off coast-to-coast demo toward the end of the year.”

The shift toward safety features comes as Tesla readies the introduction of the its new software version 9. As Musk put it, the software revamp will expand the capabilities of Autopilot—the name of Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving system that’s available for $5,000 as an option—to include a slate of additional features.

Particularly, he said, that’ll include on/off ramp maneuvers, and improved recognition of traffic lights, stop signs, lane changes, and more.

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“Really,” Musk said, “we’re super heads down on the Version 9 software release.”

The automaker’s CEO said he hopes to introduce the Version 9 software at some point in the next four weeks, and that’ll reportedly include some classic Atari games.

More notably, the shift toward safety comes as regulators continue digging into a number of crashes this year involving Tesla cars operating Autopilot, including a fatal Model X accident in March.

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Tesla posted a $719 million loss on Wednesday for the second quarter of 2018, and said that it expects to make an average of roughly 4,000 Model 3 sedans per week in the third quarter.