Tesla Motors Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said within two years a customer would be able to summon an electric car to drive autonomously from Los Angeles to New York.
“I might be slightly optimistic on that, but I don’t think significantly optimistic that we can do that in two years,” Musk said in a press conference on Sunday. He added that it should be technically feasible to have fully autonomous vehicles within 24 to 36 months.
The comments come after the company announced a software upgrade that will enable owners of Model S sedans to park them in a garage or in perpendicular spaces without a driver at the wheel. Musk called this a “baby step” in the development of driverless cars.
Owners of Model S sedans will be able to park a vehicle while standing outside of it if the vehicle is within 33 feet (10 meters) of a garage or narrow space, Tesla said on the eve of the Detroit auto show. The cars can also be summoned from a parking spot, according to the company, which said the tools remain in a beta, or test, version. Model X owners will have the capability in a few weeks, spokeswoman Khobi Brooklyn said in an emailed statement.
The upgrade also restricts automated steering on residential roads and streets without a center divider, and will limit the vehicles’ speed, Tesla said in an emailed statement.
Tesla’s so-called 7.1 software update expands on the Autopilot features unveiled in October, which let cars change lanes with turn signals and parallel park. The functions are a step toward the vision of autonomous or self-driving cars—a pursuit that’s stirring interest across the auto industry and beyond.
Technology giant Google Inc. is working on driverless cars, and automotive titans General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. are also pushing in that direction. GM said last week it will invest $500 million in Lyft Inc. and work with the ridesharing company to develop a network of self-driving cars.
Tesla, co-founded by billionaire Musk, has distinguished itself by automatically pushing over-the-air software updates to customers, refreshing the vehicles with new and enhanced functions.
–With assistance from Dana Hull.