PhotoDuring a recent episode of ARK Invest’s FYI podcast, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that Tesla’s self-driving system will be available by the end of 2019. However, the feature won’t enable a driver to allow the vehicle to operate entirely once engaged; it will require some driver oversight -- at least in the beginning.

“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 intervention, this year. I would say I am of certain of that. That is not a question mark,” he said.

However, just as the electric automaker’s Autopilot feature requires some level of driver assistance, so too will Tesla’s “full self-driving system.”

Musk noted in the interview that “people sometimes will extrapolate that to mean now it works with 100 percent certainty, requires no observation, perfectly. This is not the case.” The CEO said it’ll be another two years before Tesla’s self-driving system can operate without driver assistance.

But by the end of 2020, Musk said Tesla owners may even be able to fall asleep in their autonomous vehicle.

“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.”

Data collection giving Tesla an edge

Tesla isn’t the only automaker participating in the race to bring fully autonomous cars to market.  In December, Waymo officially launched its self-driving taxi service in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona. General Motors is also racing to launch a self-driving car service under a collaboration with Honda.

During the podcast, Musk said he believes Tesla has an advantage in the race to deliver self-driving cars due to the amount of data Tesla collects from its vehicles.

“The reason Tesla is making rapid progress is because we have vastly more data, and this is increasing exponentially,” he said.

Tesla’s long-promised self-driving feature must still obtain regulatory approval before hitting the market, Elektrek noted. But Musk believes the data it collects will come in handy when regulators request proof that the system is safer than human drivers.

“I think they will understand data, so if we show you know, billions of miles with a given safety level, then they will appreciate that. It’s not like saying, ‘Hey, we have this really fast computer and everything’s gonna work.’ It’s like, ‘Well, you know, that’s just a statement,’” the Tesla executive said.

“But if you got hard data, billions of miles, and you could show the accident rates and intervention rates, and that it’s essentially unsafe if you don’t have Autopilot on, which I think is really unequivocal at this point. No matter how you slice the data, it is unequivocal at this point that it’s safer to have Autopilot on.”

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