Will your Tesla be able to drive itself by the end of the year?
According to Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk, what he called a “feature-complete” version of Tesla’s full self-driving car capabilities could be available in an early access program to some drivers before the year is over. Musk said there was no guarantee that the full self-driving technology for Teslas would come out in the next few months, but that the company was “on track” to make such a development a reality in the near future.
But even if Tesla rolls out “feature-complete” self-driving in a testing program by the end of December, Musk said drivers will still need to keep their hands on, or very near, their steering wheels until a fully functional self-driving car is a reality. And Musk said such a vehicle won’t be around until the end of 2020 at the earliest.
Musk made his latest comments about Teslas being able to eventually drive themselves during the company’s third-quarter earnings call on Wednesday. He tried to clear up some of the confusion that has come with the company’s use of the team “feature-complete” to describe what a Tesla could do without a driver holding onto a car’s steering wheel.
“It’s the car (being) able to drive from one’s house to work, most likely without interventions. So it will still be supervised, but it will be able to drive,” Musk said. According to Musk, the technology would build upon the “low-speed autonomy” that Teslas can now have with Smart Summon, a new feature that allows Tesla drivers to remotely call their cars to leave parking spots and pick them up at a curbside within a parking lot.
Dan Ives, managing director with Wedbush Securities, said that if Tesla can make self-driving cars a reality, “the endeavor would be a crowning achievement of Musk and this product development looks ahead of schedule. From a financial standpoint, Ives said the self driving feature “is high margin and flows directly to the (company’s) bottom line.”
Tesla isn’t just giving away its full self-driving technology package for free. Customers who want the capabilities in their cars have to pay an extra $7,000 for the package on top of their car’s standard sticker price.
Musk’s comments about Tesla’s moves toward fully self-driving cars increased enthusiasm for the company’s latest quarterly results, which included an earnings surprise as supported a belief that Tesla can consistently turn a profit.
Tesla said that for the quarter that ended in September, it earned $1.86 a share, excluding one-time items, on $6.30 billion in revenue, compared to Wall Street analysts’ estimates for a loss of 24 cents a share, on $6.45 billion. Tesla also said it still expects to deliver at least 360,000 cars this year.
Tesla’s better-than-expected results, and reiterating of its delivery forecast, raised investors’ enthusiasm for the company, and sent Tesla’s shares up nearly 20%, to as high as $304.91 Thursday.