Elon Musk says Tesla cars could be able to drive themselves by the end of 2019, on the back of today's full self-driving computer reveal.
According to the outspoken CEO, the new computer is "the best chip in the world... objectively". It was unveiled at an investor day in Palo Alto, California.
It'll be built in Texas by Samsung, with the company suggesting supply shouldn't be an issue. We've heard that before, though.
The hardware is installed in all Model S and X cars sold since March 20, and Model 3s sold since around April 12. Owners who've paid for the Full Self Driving option at order will be able to retrofit it to their cars.
The new chip itself sits between the glovebox and firewall of a Model S, X, 3 or Y, and has redundancies in place so part of the system could fail without any effect on the car's performance.
“Any part of this could fail and the car will keep driving,” Elon Musk told the gathered investors.
“The probability of this computer failing is substantially lower than someone losing consciousness,” he continued, continuing his long-running comparison of Autopilot with human drivers.
Backing the hardware is AI software designed to keep an eye on the information flowing in from the array of cameras and radar sensors around the car, before translating that information into actions.
That means cars fitted with the new chip should be able to operate as robo-taxis – without a driver on board, in other words.
According to Musk, a Tesla Network ride-sharing app will go online next year in regions with supportive regulations. Owners will be able to list their cars and have them running around earning money during what would otherwise be 'downtime'.
It'll be pitched as a combination of Uber and Airbnb, allowing consumers to hail a ride from their phone and have someone else's car arrive to collect them.
The company will take around 30 per cent of revenue generated from the ride-sharing app, and will support its rollout by adding Tesla-owned vehicles to the fleet in some locations.
According to Tesla, apps like Uber and Lyft cost customers up to US$3 ($4.20) per mile at the moment. That's compared to just US$0.18 ($0.25) for its upcoming service.
Musk said owners could make US$30k ($42,000) every year by running their Tesla on the app.
“The fundamental message that consumers should be taking today is that it is financially insane to buy anything other than a Tesla,” Musk said.
“It will be like owning a horse in three years. I mean, fine if you want to own a horse. But you should go into it with that expectation.”