Tesla says robotaxis coming to United States roads next year

Elon Musk flaunts Tesla's latest self-driving technology, says robotaxis coming next year

Elon Musk flaunts Tesla's latest self-driving technology, says robotaxis coming next year

When asked how much autonomous technology is costing Tesla, Musk responded: "It's basically our entire expense structure". His newest big prediction: that Tesla will have self-driving cars on the road next year - without humans inside - operating in a so-called robotaxi fleet. But with Tesla facing mounting concerns about demand for its electric cars, the CEO said both the company and its customers will reap major monetary benefits once self-driving robotaxis are ready for prime time.

Tesla has announced an ambitious vision for its planned ride-sharing fleet, which will eventually pave the way for a $25,000 Model 3 Taxi that omits a steering wheel or other human controls.

No, though at an event where investors were hoping to be satisfied after vocal, and repeated claims about Tesla's autonomous future, it's not hard to imagine that some might have wanted to hear more definitives by the end of the day.

Central to this promise is a new microchip for self-driving vehicles unveiled by Musk on Monday during a webcast presentation. It's not the first time he's floated the idea; he tweeted about Tesla robotaxis earlier this month.

As Musk sees it, the business case for the Tesla Network is clear.

Tesla's stock sank by almost 4 per cent to close Monday at $262.75.

The network allows vehicles to recognize images, determine what objects are and figure out how to deal with them. To become fully self-driving, the cars also need a special computer that fits behind the glove box and is powered by a special chip Musk boasted is better than any other processor in the world "by a huge margin".

Tesla Inc.'s calling used to be bringing affordable electric cars to the masses. There will be a slight chance of some "fender benders", Musk acknowledged Monday, and indicated Tesla will be liable for accident caused by a vehicle under the control of its robot.

"People will die", Rajkumar predicted. "I think we'll make the moves you think we should make".

"The real-world is really weird and messy", Musk said.

Meanwhile, drivers can stand to earn $30,000 per year by participating in the Tesla Network, Musk said. Then, Tesla will need to get regulatory approval for the fully autonomous cars to drive on roads, something Musk predicted would happen in a few states by the end of next year.

The regulatory situation isn't so much a question of Tesla's cars "passing" federal approvals, because such a process doesn't really exist as yet.

California, Tesla's biggest US market, requires proof that fully autonomous cars can drive safely on public roads, but most other states aren't as stringent.

Still, Nvidia did offer praise for Tesla, saying it had just "raised the bar for self-driving computers".

April 22 - Musk predicts that "probably two years from now we'll make a auto with no steering wheels or pedals".

Teslas have been involved in a handful of crashes, some of them fatal, involving the use of the company's AutoPilot system.

Musk theorizes that a ride-hailing service similar to Uber and Lyft will boost Tesla's revenue and make it easier for the company to sell its cars to consumers who could effectively lower the cost of ownership by making money on the side.

Musk also laid out plans for the automaker's automated ride-sharing service, which he called a "robotaxi". Waymo launched a small, safety-driver monitored vehicle service in the Phoenix area late a year ago.

Pictured is a mock-up of a Tesla with no steering wheel.

The Waymo cars also have Lidar, something experts remain convinced must be part of any fully self-driving vehicle, despite Musk's colourful contentions otherwise.

Critics have said that Tesla's heavy reliance on camera-based systems won't work in poor weather.