The first million-mile electric car battery may not be far away from hitting the road and it’s likely in a Tesla.
The full-self driving car is about to take a step closer to reality.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Tuesday that the test version of company’s Autopilot system will be released in “a month or so.” While he didn’t describe its capabilities, Musk said that once it’s out, “you’ll see what it’s like. It’s amazing. It’s clearly going to work.”
A number of startups and established automakers have been racing to develop self-driving technology. While it has been fielded in tests, a system that completely drives the car in all circumstances without driver input is yet to become a feature on popular cars. Tesla’s current system requires drivers to always pay attention behind the wheel and, frankly, it’s not clear how far Tesla’s next step will go.
Musk spoke at the company’s annual stockholders meeting, a drive-in theater-style event before a sea of Tesla owners in their cars, done in the name of social distancing. They honked in unison whenever Musk announced promising developments.
Musk said previously that the company’s latest electric cars have all the hardware they need for self driving. All they were missing was the software.
To accomplish the next step, Musk said his team has to completely rewrite the Autopilot software. He has been testing the cutting-edge versions himself.
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While a self-driving car would certainly be convenient, Musk added that safety could be the greatest benefit. He said he is confident that an advanced Autopilot will allow Teslas to become 10 times less likely to be involved in a serious crash than the industry average.
“That’s a lot of lives saved and a lot of injuries avoided,” Musk said.
Tesla has seen its fortunes zoom financially this year. By mid-August, its valuation was already three times the value of Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler combined. It did it by creating vehicles that captured the hearts of customers with their smooth plug-in electric drivetrains and the promise of self-driving.
In keeping with their emotional spirit, Tesla created the Models S, X, Y and Model 3 that together spell SEXY — if you flip the 3 backward.
But the company’s plans going forward, as outlined to investors, are decidedly unsexy by comparison. Musk said he expects all automakers to eventually offer their own electric and self-driving vehicles, so Tesla will stand apart by becoming the low-cost producer. He said he plans to wring so many cost savings from pioneering manufacturing techniques and battery innovations that the company will be able to offer a true low-priced, self-driving electric model.
“I think probably about three years from now we are confident we can make a very compelling $25,000 electric vehicle that’s also fully autonomous,” Musk said to a round of approving honks.
Besides the four sedans and SUVs, the company plans to sell electric semi-trucks and a radical, angular electric pickup truck as well. Musk said about 500,000 people have preordered the Cybertruck, Tesla’s name for the pickup.
Asked about the future of today’s gasoline-powered cars, Musk said he thinks their makers are doomed in the long run. All vehicles, he predicted, run more efficiently on electricity except rockets.
Piston-powered cars will become a curiosity, he said, noting there are “some steam engines somewhere.”
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