"Look, ma! No hands!"
The same day the Tesla Model S and Model X refreshes debuted, the automaker's famous CEO discussed a few other things during the quarterly earnings call. Elon Musk could have spent a chunk of time focusing on the fact Tesla, for the first time ever, had a profitable year in 2020, though this was largely thanks to selling EV credits to other automakers, which isn't a new practice. "2021 is going to be more exciting, Musk said. "I think it's going to be a great year for Tesla."
But he didn't stop there.
He also said the company's Full Self-Driving system will be capable of Level 5 autonomy by the end of the year and will be capable of driving vehicles anywhere regardless of conditions with zero need for any human interaction. Why is this so controversial? Oh, where to begin.
For starters, Tesla is still testing the beta FSD among a select group of owners, and it's barely rated at Level 3 right now. Autopilot is rated at Level 2 and FSD is considered to be an advanced software feature that does not rely on Lidar, like Waymo's still-in-development technology.
In the past, Autopilot has been abused by owners who mistakenly believe they don't have to keep their hands on the steering wheel. Even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is closely watching Tesla's beta testing. But the jump from Level 2+/3- to Level 5 is significant. Achieving completely human-free driving requires transferring Tesla's neural network to using surround-view camera footage. The system must then process that footage and Tesla engineers are still working on a new supercomputer callable of doing that vital task.
Musk also said Tesla will license its FSD tech to other automakers - as long as they pay for it. And no, Tesla customers will not be able to transfer their FSD purchase to another vehicle. FSD capability now costs $10,000, though it was previously $7,000 a few years ago. In other words, if you bought it for less and just ordered a new Tesla, you'll have to buy it again for $3k more.
Tesla added that battery production delays are what's causing the Tesla Roadster and Semi's launch to be pushed further back. Musk also wants to build a van but it too is being delayed due to insufficient battery supplies.