Outspoken and wildly optimistic Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been promising a self-driving car for many years now, though it's not even close to happening. Still, the CEO recently shared that the US EV maker's next-gen car will operate “almost entirely in autonomous mode.”
Let's keep in mind that Tesla's next-gen EV is going to be built in Mexico and could come to market as early as next year. Does this mean that Tesla will offer a very affordable and fully autonomous electric car in 2024?
It's not likely. However, back in 2020, Musk claimed that the automaker may be able to deliver a $25,000 (£20,000) fully autonomous vehicle within about the next three years. In the CEO's more recent statement, which was shared during his appearance at a Morgan Stanley conference yesterday, March 7, 2023, Musk briefly mentioned an upcoming Tesla model operating in "autonomous mode."
You can check out the livestream here, but just know that Musk's primary focus in the interview was on Twitter:
It seems Musk chose his more recent words with care since one could hypothetically argue that Tesla already has some 400,000 EVs "operating mostly in autonomous mode." This says nothing about whether or not the car is actually considered autonomous, nor does it reflect how often the car will disengage or a person will have to take over. It simply states that the next-gen car will have the ability to be used most often in autonomous mode.
Unless Tesla makes significant progress very quickly, the car will likely still have a steering wheel and pedals. Moreover, the rules will probably still require that there's a person in the driver's seat and that the safety driver will still be responsible for the car at all times. Musk didn't say anything about the absence of a driver or the driver sleeping.
That said, Musk could have easily been talking about his robotaxi concept and hoping that eventually there won't need to be a person behind the wheel, but he didn't come out and say that. Remember, in the past, Musk promised that a Tesla would pilot itself across the country from coast to coast with no human intervention, and that was supposed to happen years ago.
We will continue to closely monitor Tesla's progress with its Full Self-Driving Beta capability, which is currently paused due to concerns from NHTSA.