Topline

Electric car maker Tesla is on the verge of delivering fully driverless cars this year, billionaire CEO Elon Musk said on Thursday, his latest vision for the future following a series of bold and failed predictions about the long awaited technology.

Key Facts

Speaking via video link at an artificial intelligence conference in Shanghai, Musk said he thinks Tesla is “very close to achieving full self-driving without human supervision,” according to news reports.

Tesla should realize fully autonomous vehicles at some point “later this year,” he predicted.

Musk stressed “this is only speculation,” nodding to his history of overly optimistic forecasts on the arrival of fully driverless vehicles.

However, it feels like “we’re closer to it than we ever have been,” he said.

Musk also praised China as a major player in AI and said he is confident the country will become a global leader in the field.

He called on the government, which backed the conference, to implement more regulatory oversight for the transformative technology.

News Peg

Musk is keen to cultivate a good relationship with China and has vocally opposed the deepening divide between Beijing and Washington. It is understandable why Musk wants a good relationship with the world’s second largest economy. The country is Tesla’s second largest market after North America and is expected to become a major market for autonomous driving, a key priority for Tesla in the future. China also plays a key role in Tesla’s production capacity, as well as being a competitor for Musk’s other ventures like SpaceX’s satellite communications system Starlink. His appearance at the conference comes hot on the heels of his first visit to the country since the Covid-19 pandemic, where he met with senior officials and visited Tesla’s factory in Shanghai. His calls on Beijing to regulate AI are in line with other efforts of his to rein in the technology a bit. Months ago, he and other tech leaders called for a pause on advanced AI research to give time to better evaluate the risks it poses to people. Other leaders say could go as far as bringing about human extinction, a sentiment Musk has shared in the past.

What We Don’t Know

It’s not clear whether Musk’s vision on driverless cars will come about on his timeline. The billionaire has a storied history of failed predictions in this area—and others—and regularly predicts fully driverless vehicles are just around the corner. A number of technical breakthroughs are still needed to realize fully driverless cars and experts are divided as to when they believe this might actually happen. Deploying the technology will be a different matter entirely, and the tech raises a host of legal and regulatory issues that have yet to be addressed with anything close to the thoroughness that will be needed for autonomous vehicles to take to the streets.

Forbes Valuation

$251.1 billion. That’s how much Forbes estimates Musk is worth, according to our real time tracker. Large parts of Musk’s wealth come from his stake in Tesla, which is one of several valuable companies he cofounded. Others include rocket firm SpaceX, brain interface company Neuralink and tunneling enterprise Boring Company. He controversially acquired social media platform Twitter for $44 billion in 2022.

Further Reading

Musk Lauds China’s AI Prowess While Warning of Tech’s Dangers (Bloomberg)

Elon Musk Visits China Amid Rising Geopolitical Tensions (Forbes)

Why AI Is Next Flashpoint in US-China Tech Rivalry (Bloomberg)



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