Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tesla wants to sell electric cars with "auto-pilot" within 3 years, says Elon Musk

No partnership with Google
Self-driving cars are more associated with Google at this point, and that's fair because they were ahead of the competition and their technology is very impressive (see the video below). But if I had to bet on who will be the first to get it right and commercialize the technology, I think Tesla would have to be at the top of the list*. Elon Musk had talked about what he refers to as an "auto-pilot" for cars in the past, saying that he was interested in it and wanted to put it in Tesla's electric cars at some point, but now in a new interview he got more specific.
Electric car company Tesla Motors is working to produce a car capable of running on "auto-pilot" within the next three years, CEO Elon Musk said, joining tech giant Google and rival carmakers in the race to roll a driverless car into the market.
The California-based company's autonomous car would allow the driver to hand 90 percent of the control of the car over to the vehicle's computer system, Musk said in an interview with the Financial Times newspaper.
A fully autonomous car would come later. And at some point some speculated that Tesla would use Google's technology, but Musk said in the interview that this would be developed in-house.
"Within three years" seems to more of less coincide with the next Tesla platform, but since these are supposed to be much cheaper than the Model S and Model X, maybe the auto-pilot will first appear in the high-end models and make its way down the product line... But that's conventional thinking. Looking at how Tesla has done things so far, chances are that when they have auto-pilot tech, they'll put it in as many cars as possible to disrupt the industry and differentiate themselves from the competition.
Indeed, most analysts say that self-driving cars won't be on the road before 10-15 years. But then, they are probably the same people who wrote Tesla's obituary many times...
Here's a demo of the Google self-driving car, allowing a blind man to be in the driver's seat:
*After all, it's one thing to make cool prototypes, but it's another to commercialize a product and get it right. Google isn't a car company, and if the partner with someone else that means compromises and giving up control. Tesla is vertically integrated and has more chances of getting the experience right, in my opinion.