Tesla’s current driver-assist features are at Level 2, which is considered to be partial driving automation. This means the vehicle can control both steering and accelerating/decelerating. At this level, a driver must still be present and be ready to take over control of the vehicle at any moment.
To achieve Level 5, or full automation, the car must be able to perform all functions without the need for a driver to intervene, or even have a someone in the driver’s seat at all.
In early March Tesla had a meeting with Miguel Acosta of the Autonomous Vehicles Branch of the DMV to discuss the expansion of the FSD beta program to more testers. According to notes of that meeting, Tesla’s director of Autopilot software CJ Moore revealed what the automaker believes it will take before they can move out of level 2 and claim higher levels of automation for their vehicles.
“Tesla is at Level 2 currently. The ratio of driver interaction would need to be in the magnitude of 1 or 2 million miles per driver interaction to move into higher levels of automation.”
CEO Elon Musk has been optimistic about achieving this level of automation, saying it could happen by the end of this year. According to the notes, Moore did not rule this possibility out.
“Tesla indicated that Elon is extrapolating on the rates of improvement when speaking about L5 capabilities. Tesla couldn’t say if the rate of improvement would make it to L5 by end of calendar year.”
Tesla has never released information on the number of interventions per mile driven, so there is no way to gauge how far away they are from achieving this standard. Anecdotal evidence from current FSD beta testers indicate the number of interventions are dropping, with one trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles requiring no interventions at all.
This is also before Tesla has released V9.0 of FSD beta, which Musk has said is a massive improvement over the previous versions as it uses vision only and no radar. It is expected to be released soon, and should drop the number of interventions even further.
You can read the full meeting notes here (PDF).