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Elon Musk: Tesla cars will be able to drive themselves from New York to LA by 2018

Published Jan 11th, 2016 9:27AM EST

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Elon Musk’s vision for the future is bold and ambitious, and much to his credit, the Tesla CEO doesn’t shy away from making brazen predictions that other CEOs would be too embarrassed to express publicly.

During a conference call with reporters on Sunday, and originally recapped by The Verge, Musk said flat-out that Tesla’s new Summon feature may soon enable its fleet of Model S and Model X vehicles to drive themselves all the way from New York to Los Angeles. As we reported over the weekend, Tesla’s latest software update includes Summon, a mode which lets users park and retrieve their cars even with no one inside it. Of course, as a new feature emblazoned with a Beta tag, the feature in its current form only works up to a distance of 39 feet.

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But in two years time, Musk anticipates that the operational distance will be cover an area spanning from coast to coast.

In an official blog post published on Sunday, Tesla added:

During this Beta stage of Summon, we would like customers to become familiar with it on private property. Eventually, your Tesla will be able to drive anywhere across the country to meet you…

The release of Tesla Version 7.1 software is the next step toward developing fully autonomous driving capabilities and delivering them through over-the-air software updates, keeping our customers at the forefront of driving technology in the years ahead.

While conceding that his prediction for the future falls on the optimistic end of the spectrum, it’s still exciting to see a CEO of a major company make such declarations publicly.

Now in a hypothetical scenario where Musk’s prediction becomes a reality, it’s only natural to wonder how an autonomous Tesla would recharge. Well, not to fear, that’s where Tesla’s creepy robotic charger comes into play, a video of which can be seen below.

And lest anyone think that Tesla might deliver this functionality via a simple software update, think again. Musk emphasized that the scenario he lays out requires a car be equipped with more advanced sensors than what is currently found on the Model S or Model X.

“We do need more sensors than the car currently has to achieve that goal,” Musk explained. “You need a lot of redundancy … more cameras, more radars, redundant power buses … so that any system can fail in the car and it doesn’t need to backup to a driver.”

Later on Sunday, Musk also took his thoughts to Twitter where he published the following.

Now as for why anyone would find themselves in a situation where they need to use Summon to bring their Tesla back from the other side of the country, well, we’re at a loss. A more practical use might involve a Tesla being able to function as a designated driver of sorts.

Technological considerations aside, it’s interesting to ponder if users even have a desire for this type of advanced and futuristic functionality. After all, some might harbor a not too unreasonable fear that hackers will eventually figure out a way to “summon” Tesla vehicles that they don’t even own.

Either way, Elon Musk will make sure that the not-too-distant future will be a pretty interesting place.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.