Speaking at the opening of Shanghai’s annual World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC), Tesla CEO Elon Musk talked about how his company is progressing towards full autonomous driving.
With over-the-air (OTA) software updates, Tesla has steadily been improving its Autopilot driver-assist package since it was first released.
The most recent was the addition of Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control (TLSSC), which is still in a beta stage of development, but has already been improved so that it can proceed through green lights.
In remarks made via a video message played at the conference, Musk said Tesla is “very close” to achieving Level 5 autonomous driving (via Reuters).
“I’m extremely confident that Level 5 or essentially complete autonomy will happen, and I think will happen very quickly…I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for Level 5 autonomy complete this year.“
Tesla’s Autopilot system is currently categorized at Level 2 (some may say Level 3).
Level 2 can itself actually control both steering and braking/accelerating simultaneously under some circumstances. The human driver must continue to pay full attention (“monitor the driving environment”) at all times and perform the rest of the driving task.
Level 3 can itself perform all aspects of the driving task under some circumstances. In those circumstances, the human driver must be ready to take back control at any time when the ADS requests the human driver to do so. In all other circumstances, the human driver performs the driving task.
Level 5 would mean the car would be able to drive itself without any driver input, at any time.
Level 5 – An automated driving system (ADS) on the vehicle can do all the driving in all circumstances. The human occupants are just passengers and need never be involved in driving.
If Tesla is able to achieve the “basic functionality” required for Level 5 autonomous driving by the end of the year, it would be a huge feat for the automaker. It’s important to remember though that this would be classified as “Elon time”, and the time estimate may be on the optimistic side (although he has been a lot better lately).
It will likely take much more time though than that for the features to be released, as it would require approvals from regulators, which as we know, is not exactly easy (or quick).
Here’s a video clip of Elon Musk’s comments at the conference.