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Musk Says Tesla Is ‘Very Close’ to Developing Fully Autonomous Vehicles

Tesla Vehicles Could Soon Become Completely Autonomous As Self-Driving Tech ‘Very Close’, Elon Musk Says

U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc is “very close” to achieving level 5 autonomous driving technology, Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Thursday, referring to the capability to navigate roads without any driver input.

Musk added that he was confident Tesla would attain basic functionality of the technology this year, in remarks made via a video message at the opening of Shanghai’s annual World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC).

“I’m extremely confident that level 5 or essentially complete autonomy will happen and I think will happen very quickly,” Musk said.

Tesla, the world’s highest-valued carmaker after overtaking Toyota last week, already operates an Autopilot system that uses external cameras, radars and sensors, but it is driver assisted and does not make the vehicle autonomous.

There are considered to be six levels of autonomous driving, starting at zero. Tesla’s current autopilot feature is what is known as Level 2 – partial automation.

When driving in autopilot, a Tesla is able to steer as well as control acceleration – but a human is needed to sit behind the steering wheel to take control at any time.

There have been a number of car crashes associated with drivers using Tesla’s autopilot feature when not paying attention to the road – two of which are being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board in the US.

In one incident, an Apple engineer died when his Tesla Model X on autopilot hit a concrete barrier – something he had previously complained to his wife about the autopilot feature veering him towards.

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