Published: 10 Aug 2013

There has been a lot of talk about self-driving cars of late and it seems like the idea of autonomous technology has garnered the interest of yet another manufacturer – California-based electric car company Tesla Motors.

Speaking in an interview with the Financial TImes, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that his company were working on a car that would be capable on running on ‘auto-pilot’ and expect to have it ready within the next three years.

Fully self-driven cars still a way off

He said that the vehicle would be 90 per cent controlled by computer, but added that a fully autonomous vehicle like the one Google is working on would take much longer to develop.

Tesla surprised many people with the quality of its electric vehicles, and the jump in to the self-driving market will see the company try to steal a march on the rest of the industry.

Several companies, including Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo, have been openly experimenting with autonomous technology over the past year, and Nissan recently said that it would have a completely self-driven car available by 2020. Musk, however, believes that such as an ambition is still a way off.

“My opinion is it’s a bridge too far to go to fully autonomous cars,” Musk told the Financial Times. “It’s incredibly hard to get the last few per cent.” The Tesla chief’s opinion is one shared by head of Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally, who recently said that, while he believes self-driving cars will arrive, the obstacles that must be navigated make it hard to forecast when.

Ford recently revealed its S-Max concept car at the IFA show in Berlin, a car that has the electronic credentials that the company believe would eventually lead to self-driving vehicles, but the Ford Motor boss is well aware of the progress that must be made to develop a roadworthy car. The current S-Max is available at  now.

“We have no illusions about how difficult that is,” Mulally told technology site CNET. “The idea is very compelling longer-term. GPS, camera technology, the computational capacity, the sensors – it's going to be a while before we get all the enabling technologies, the infrastructure in place, and make it affordable.”

Legal and safety issues to overcome

Tesla has recently expanded to the European market with deliveries of its new Model S landing in Norway, before eventually expanding across Europe. However, a similar rollout of a self-driving vehicle would prove more difficult, not least because of current European laws requiring drivers to be in control of their vehicles at all times.

Back To Blog