Tesla will release fully self-driving cars in 2019 — with a big asterisk

tesla model s

Tesla remains on-track to release a fully self-driving car before the end of 2019, company co-founder and CEO Elon Musk confirmed. The feature will represent a major milestone in the company’s quest for autonomy, but it will come with an equally major catch.

“I think we will be feature complete, full self-driving, this year — meaning the car will be able to find you in a parking lot, pick you up, and take you all the way to your destination without an intervention — this year. I would say I am of certain of that. That is not a question mark,” Musk announced on the Ark Invest podcast. He’s confident in his team’s work because he personally oversees the development of Tesla’s Autopilot technology.

His comments make it sound like Tesla has cracked the code of autonomous driving, but that’s not entirely accurate. The self-driving vehicles Tesla deploys on public roads by the end of 2019 will still require a human driver behind the wheel. “People sometimes will extrapolate that to mean now it works with 100 percent certainty, requires no observation, perfectly. This is not the case,” Musk clarified.

He added regulators could force Tesla owners to remain alert even if the hardware and software work perfectly. The company needs to convince lawmakers in every town, county, state, and in the White House that its technology is safe to use by ordinary motorists, with or without oversight. That’s easier said than done; just ask Audi. The German firm offers level three autonomous technology called Traffic Jam Pilot on the A8 in select global markets, including Germany, but it decided not to offer the feature on the American-spec model because doing so would have required slashing through jungles of red tape.

Tesla’s advantage is data — and lots of it. “The reason Tesla is making rapid progress is because we have vastly more data, and this is increasing exponentially,” Musk told Ark Invest, a firm that invests in his company. Tesla receives and analyzes the anonymous data generated when customers engage Autopilot.

The California-based firm will race ahead of its rivals if it achieves what Musk promised, though it runs the risk of summoning regulators’ dark cloud of disapproval if it calls its cars fully self-driving while simultaneously reminding owners that they need to remain aware and alert. Even if it’s ready but not legal by the end of 2019, the technology will provide the foundation Tesla needs to achieve true autonomy, Musk noted.

“My guess as to when we would think it is safe for somebody to essentially fall asleep and wake up at their destination? Probably towards the end of next year. That is when I think it would be safe enough for that,” he opined. Time will tell whether lawmakers will agree with his assessment.

Cars

Automakers are spending billions on self-driving technology people are afraid of

Automakers are spending billions of dollars on developing the technology that will power self-driving cars, but research shows consumers have no interest in giving up control. Will they ever recoup their investment?
Cars

Tesla gives us a cryptic look at its cyberpunk, Blade Runner-inspired pickup

Tesla has started designing its long-promised pickup truck. The yet-unnamed model will come with dual-motor all-wheel drive and lots of torque, plus it will be able to park itself. It could make its debut in 2019.
Cars

Can electric cars be S3XY? Tesla says yes with the new Model Y crossover

Tesla introduced a crossover named Model Y at its design studio in Los Angeles. It's a more spacious alternative to the Model 3 it shares 75 percent of its parts with, and is a smaller sibling to the Model X.
Cars

Ford to expand autonomous-car research in race to launch robo-taxi service

Ford is in a race with Waymo and GM Cruise to launch large-scale taxi and delivery services using autonomous vehicles. Already testing its technology in four U.S. cities, the automaker looks set to expand its program to a fifth.
Cars

Sibling rivalry: The Tesla Model Y takes on the Tesla Model 3

Tesla expanded its lineup with a fourth car named Model Y. It's an electric crossover positioned as a more spacious alternative to the Model 3. The two cars share about 75 percent of their components, but they're aimed at different buyers.
Cars

Adventurous and electric, Porsche’s second station wagon will arrive in 2020

The Mission E Cross Turismo concept Porsche unveiled during the 2018 Geneva Auto Show will morph into a production model tentatively named Taycan Cross Turismo. This 600-horsepower electric station wagon will arrive in showrooms by 2021.
Cars

Unrestrained by heritage, Polestar sets its sights on becoming a digital brand

With no heritage to worry about, Polestar is free to move full-speed ahead towards its goal of becoming a digital brand. All of the company's upcoming models will be electric, and they will inaugurate an Android-powered infotainment system.
Cars

Mustang-like and electrified. What did Ford just show a preview of?

Ford posted an enigmatic picture of a blue Mustang emblem on a black background right as Tesla prepared to introduce the Model Y. Is the Blue Oval teasing a hybrid Mustang, or is it previewing a Mustang-inspired, battery-powered crossover?
Cars

Amazon and Kia team up to simplify EV home-charging station installs

Kia Motors announced a new program with Amazon for electric vehicles. Customers planning to purchase a new Kia EV or PHEV can check out recommended Level 2 240-volt home charging stations and arrange installation in their homes.
Cars

Audi’s traffic light information system shows the challenges facing V2X tech

Audi’s traffic light information system is among the first commercial applications of potentially game-changing V2X tech. So how does it work in the real world? We spent a few days getting stuck at red lights to find out.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

Fisker plans sub-$40,000 electric SUV with 300 miles of range for 2021

Fisker Inc. plans to launch an electric SUV with a base price of under $40,000, and a range of around 300 miles in 2021. The unnamed vehicle could compete with the Tesla Model Y, if it ever gets into production.
Cars

2020 Cadillac CT5 luxury sedan gets turbocharged power, chiseled looks

The 2020 Cadillac CT5 replaces the CTS in the General Motors luxury brand's lineup. Cadillac will unveil the CT5 at the 2019 New York Auto Show in April. Until then, it's keeping most details under wraps.
Cars

Bentley’s 542-horsepower Continental GT V8 is the best kind of downsizing

The Bentley Continental GT V8 has fewer cylinders than its W12 sibling, but Bentley expects it to offer better gas mileage and more agile handling. The V8's top speed of 198 mph is also pretty darn fast.