In the conversation with ARK Invest — a Tesla shareholder that wrote a stern letter to Musk after he tweeted about taking Tesla private — Musk said Tesla vehicles would be capable of self-driving by the end of this year and that by the end of 2020 human drivers wouldn’t have to pay attention while the car drives and you could even take a nap until arriving to your destination.
As for what the electric cars are capable of now, Musk said he’s a big believer and user in Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system. “It’s unsafe to not have Autopilot on,” he said in the interview. Back in October Tesla released “Navigate on Autopilot,” an advanced freeway-only feature that lets the car autosteer, change lanes, and even overtake slower traffic on its own.
Navigate is still a beta program, so you still have to confirm that you want the car to take some of the suggested actions. But eventually this would build into an autonomous system.
Musk takes advantage of the closest thing to autonomy on freeways. He said, “Even if there is a shorter way home you still take the highway because you can use Autopilot,” he said. “I stopped using Waze for example…and just take the highway ‘cuz then I can have Autopilot on.”
He further explained why ditching Waze is the more efficient way to drive, “You know going through a bunch of windy streets which is kind of a lot of mental overhead as opposed to sitting on the highway and cruising along is better.”
Waze and other navigation apps often find back roads and shortcuts through neighborhoods when freeways clog up, but the advanced Autopilot feature doesn’t work in those environments. So if you take a Waze route instead of having the car doing a lot of the heavy lifting on the highway, you’re fully in charge. On the highway with Navigate on Autopilot engaged you still have to think, focus, and pay attention, but the car is also on the lookout for you if you’re sitting in traffic or coming up on your exit.