Tesla is aiming to launch its first self-driving robotaxis in 2020, CEO Elon Musk has revealed.
During a presentation at the company’s Autonomy Day earlier this week Musk said the new robotaxis are part of the company’s vision to establish an autonomous ride-sharing network, expected to be launched in the US.
“I feel very confident predicting that there will be autonomous robotaxis from Tesla next year,” he said.
Musk says he does not expect to have regulatory approval in all jurisdictions, but he is confident the company will have regulatory approval “somewhere” next year.
The scheme would operate on a model similar to that of Uber or Airbnb, he said.
Tesla will take 25 percent to 30 percent of the revenue from those rides, Musk said. In places where there aren’t enough people to share their cars, Tesla would provide a dedicated fleet of robotaxis.
Custom self-driving computer chip
The electric vehicle (EV) company unveiled new computer hardware for what it said was "full self-driving" capabilities in the form of the new microchip.
All new Tesla vehicles are now produced with the custom full self-driving computer chip, Musk said.
That chip fulfills the hardware requirements for full self-driving, according to Musk, which he claims is the “best in the world.”
Tesla vehicles are now equipped with a suite of sensors such as forward-facing radar and cameras.
The remaining step is the software, which Musk says will be “feature complete” and at a reliability level that we would consider that no one needs to pay attention, by the middle of next year.
Over one million robotaxis on the road
“From our standpoint, if you fast forward a year, maybe a year and three months, but next year for sure, we’ll have over a million robotaxis on the road,” Musk said. “The fleet wakes up with an over the air update; that’s all it takes.”
Tesla's vehicles are not yet at the standard of autonomy needed to earn the tag "self-driven".
Level 4 autonomy means a vehicle can drive itself with a human on standby, with level 5 the standard needed before it can be called truly autonomous of human agency.
No Tesla car is at either level so far.
And there are still technical and legal challenges ahead for driverless cars, which currently are not deemed as sophisticated or roadworthy as cars with drivers, nor safe enough for public roads.
Recharging the Tesla robotaxis is another challenge for the company.
Musk predicts the robotaxis will be able to return home and automatically park and recharge.