During Tesla’s recently held Q4 2018 earnings call, Elon Musk provided some insights on the company’s upcoming Full Self-Driving features, including improvements to Navigate on Autopilot and the highly-anticipated Advanced Summon update. If Musk’s words are any indication, it appears that 2019 might be the year when Tesla’s possible lead in the autonomous driving field comes into focus.
Musk’s updates came as a response to one of the questions submitted by retail investors ahead of the fourth quarter earnings call. When asked for updates on Full Self-Driving, Musk was optimistic. Addressing the inquiry, the CEO hinted that the first of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving capabilities would be rolled out through improvements in Navigate on Autopilot. In true Musk fashion, the CEO seemed quite excited for the feature’s rollout, describing the experience of Full Self-Driving as “sublime.”
“Well, we already have Full Self-Driving capability on highways. So from highway on-ramp to highway exiting, including passing cars and going from one highway interchange to another, Full Self-Driving capability is there. In a few weeks, we’ll be pushing an update that will allow the option of removing stalk confirm (for Navigate on Autopilot) in markets where regulators will approve it, which would be the case in the US, for example.
“And over time, probably all regulators will approve it. But we kept stalk confirm there to make sure that we took care of any strange corner cases. It’s really quite sublime if you have stalk confirm off and the car goes from highway on-ramp, passed the slower cars, takes the interchanges and then takes the exit and then comes to a stop after the exit. It’s really quite profound to have that experience.”
Apart from upcoming improvements to Navigate on Autopilot, Musk also shared some insights on other FSD improvements set to be rolled out to the company’s electric cars, such as the capability to read traffic lights and stop signs. Musk further noted that Telsa owners would be able to glimpse a bit of Full Self-Driving’s capability to maneuver around complex environments when Advanced Summon gets rolled out.
“The next part of full self-driving is traffic lights cause they’re hard. Stops signs are pretty easy. Traffic lights and intersections are tricky ones and navigating complex parking lots, like if your underground in a mall parking lot with a lot of pedestrians and it’s on multiple levels. That kind of thing is kind of tricky. With the release of Advanced Summon, you’ll see the first indications of the car being able to navigate complex parking lots. That’s also coming out fairly soon, probably next month,” Musk said.
Ultimately, Elon Musk hinted that Tesla’s Full Self-Driving features are starting to take form. By the end of the year, Musk stated that Tesla’s Full Self-Driving features would likely be ready, and it would be up to regulators whether they approve of the feature’s full use on public roads or not.
“In Development Mode is quite all the things that I just mentioned. It’s really a question of getting your reliability of recognizing traffic lights to [the nines]. It’s like at 98% good right now, but we need it to be like 99.999. You know, really extremely reliable. When will we think it’s safe for full self-driving? It’s probably [toward] the end of this year. Then it’s up to the regulators to decide when they want to approve that,” Musk said.
Overall, credit must be given to Elon Musk’s hands-on leadership style for allowing Tesla to make headway in its efforts to bring Full Self-Driving to its fleet. As noted last year, Musk uses himself as the primary test subject for Autopilot’s development, using a special build of the software in his personal car that allows him to make the system as aggressive on the road as possible. In a statement to The Information, one of Tesla’s Autopilot development team members stated that Musk had found himself in “situations that many of us wouldn’t want to be in,” since he has a tendency to push the limits of the driver-assist system. Considering Musk’s recent statements, it appears that those risks are about to pay off.