Elon Musk has made it clear that fully autonomous driving isn't a top priority for Tesla. Instead, he wants an auto-pilot system where the driver can cede control for short amounts of time, say, in traffic or on the highway. And the first Tesla to get that feature will be the Model 3.
Speaking with Nikkei in Japan, Musk said that Tesla plans to incorporate some auto-pilot technology into the $35,000 Model 3 when it goes on sale in around three years. Tesla will develop the system and software in house, but will be using subcomponents and sensors from other companies.
The system Musk has described is similar to what Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Infiniti, and most recently, Cadillac have promised.
That doesn't mean that the rest of the Tesla line-up won't be getting some form of auto-pilot in the future, as Tesla is keen on updating current models with new features. But in the case of the Model S and forthcoming Model X, each would have to be retrofitted with new hardware or have the technology included in a revision.
"I think in the long term, all Tesla cars will have auto-pilot capability," Musk told Nikkei.
Musk also believes that fully autonomous driving, similar to what's being developed by other automakers and Google, is a given, although his estimates on when it will roll out is a bit more aggressive.
"Full auto-pilot capability is going to happen, probably, in the five- or six-year time frame," Musk said.