Tesla is on the verge of achieving level 5 (L5) fully autonomous driving technology, CEO Elon Musk said on Thursday.
In a video message to attendees of the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, Musk claimed that Tesla has resolved many fundamental challenges associated with developing a L5 self-driving vehicle that would require no driver input to navigate the roads.
"I feel like we are very close," he stated, according to the BBC.
"I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for level five autonomy complete this year."
He added that a future software update could activate L5 autonomy in the cars, with no new hardware requirement.
Musk acknowledged that many small problems still remain to be solved, and there is also the challenge of putting the whole system together.
"You're able to handle the vast majority of situations. But then there will be something very odd."
"You need a kind of a real-world situation. Nothing is more complex and weird than the real world. Any simulation we create is necessarily a subset of the complexity of the real world."
Musk's statement of Tesla being very close to achieving L5 autonomous driving technology should not necessarily be taken as the commitment of delivering the capability to customers in 2020.
In April 2019, Musk stated that Tesla would probably develop a fully autonomous car by the end of the year and that he would be "shocked" if that is not achieved by the end of 2020 at the latest.
Tesla's current, L2 Autopilot system requires the driver to remain alert, with hands on the wheel, while the vehicle navigates the roads.
Musk has said many times that autonomous driving will be transformative for the company, potentially bringing billions of dollars in revenue for it.
While many carmakers and tech firms are currently working to develop autonomous driving technology, industry experts believe it would still take some time for the technology to be delivered to customers.
Achieving L5 autonomy in the lab is a totally different proposition from delivering the capability to users. Moreover, Tesla would also need to go through the entire process of receiving regulatory approvals from concerned agencies.
Notably, in 2018, the company blamed a driver (Walter Huang) for negligence after he crashed a Model X on the road and died.
In February, a report by the National Transportation Safety Board probing the accident blamed a litany of failures in Tesla's Autopilot system for the fatal accident.
In its conclusion, the report identified a number of issues with Tesla's Autopilot system and the regulation of what it called "partial driving automation systems".
It will use a light pattern recognition module to determine the face of the user
Zoom denies claims that its service is a security risk
The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak should concentrate some people’s minds about the importance of experts, argues Professor Peter Cochrane