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Elon Musk: We’re ‘two years’ away from Tesla drivers sleeping in cars on long road-trips

Published May 1st, 2017 2:49PM EDT
Elon Musk

With a penchant for dreaming bigger than almost anyone else in the tech industry, Elon Musk has never been one to shy away from bold predictions. Whether its devising a plan to help colonize Mars or launching a brand new company focused on merging the human brain with computers, Musk is clearly willing to embrace initiatives that most other people in the tech industry might reasonably categorize as outlandish, if not downright insane.

During Musk’s recent TED Talk, the Tesla CEO was in rare form. In addition to touching on a plan to create an elaborate network of underground tunnels capable of whisking cars to and fro at speeds of 130 MPH, Musk also took some time to discuss the progress Tesla has been making with its self-driving software.

In fact, Musk went so far as to say that Tesla later this year will demonstrate that a Tesla vehicle will be able to drive all the way from New York City to Los Angeles with zero driver interaction.

“November or December of this year,” Musk boasted, “we should be able to go all the way from a parking lot in California to a parking lot in New York with no controls touched in the entire journey.”

All the more impressive is that Musk is confident that the feat can be accomplished without a static route, which is to say that the Tesla vehicle will be able to adjust its route in real-time based on traffic patterns. What’s more, Musk said that the vehicle would even be able to handle a change in destination on the fly.

“But the thing that was interesting is that I’m actually fairly confident it will be able to do that route even if you change the route dynamically,” Musk added. “So it gets it’s fairly easy if you say I’m going to be really good at one specific route… But it’s going to be very good. Certainly once you enter a highway to go anywhere on the highway system in a given country. So it’s not sort of limited to L.A. or New York. We could we could change and make it Seattle or Florida that same day or in real time.”

When Musk was later asked when Tesla owners will be able to go to sleep at the start of a drive and later wake up at their destination, Musk said that it’s “about two years” away.

“The real trick is not how you make it work 99.9% of the time. If a car crashes, say, 1 in 1000 times, then you’re probably still not going to be comfortable falling asleep..  it’s never going to be perfect, but if the car is unlikely to crash in 100 lifetimes or 1000 lifetimes… then that’s probably ok.”

In essence, Musk is claiming that Tesla’s software, in just two years time, will be so robust that it will be “unlikely to crash in a minimum of 100 lifetimes.” That seems like a pretty ambitious claim, even for Musk.

Musk’s full TED Talk, which was more of an interview, can be viewed below.

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.