Tesla Model S interior.
Image: Photo by Sergei Fadeichev\TASS via Getty Images
Tesla’s Q4 2017 earnings report, released on Wednesday, wasn’t exactly stellar — the company reported a $675 million in losses on a $3.3 billion revenue.
But that doesn’t mean the company isn’t working on cool new features. During the earnings call, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that within three to six months, he expects Tesla cars to be able to drive autonomously from U.S. coast to coast.
Musk originally promised this in Oct. 2016, which is when the company also showed a video of a Tesla car driving itself to work without human intervention. But that was just after the company ended its partnership with Mobileye, the developer of the original self-driving system for Tesla cars, and switched to a system built in-house. It took quite a while for Tesla’s technology to catch up with what Mobileye had built.
Now, however, it looks like full driving autonomy is just around the corner.
Answering a question during the call, Musk said the company could’ve already done it, but it would require “too much specialized code” which would be “gaming,” and would only work for a single route and not as a general solution.
“It’s also one of those things that’s kind of exponential, it doesn’t seem there’s much progress and then suddenly “wow,” said Musk. “Time-wise, we could probably do a coast-to-coast drive in 3 months, 6 months in the outside.”
Musk also said that the feature would be available for customers, though he didn’t say whether that would happen immediately.
Answering a different question during the call, the Tesla CEO also commented on the absence of LIDAR in Tesla’s autonomous driving systems. Musk called LIDAR a “crutch,” and said the key problem in autonomous driving systems is passive optical recognition, which is done through cameras.
Despite’s Musk bold claims and promises of full autonomy, Tesla’s self-driving cars still only have a Level 2 autonomous driving system, which is behind some other car manufacturers, most notably Audi. A coast-to-coast autonomous drive would likely require at least a Level 4 autonomy or higher.