Investors familiar with Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) are well aware that advanced autonomous-driving capabilities and an outspoken CEO are two characteristics of the electric vehicle manufacturer that distinguish it from a majority of other car companies. Those two qualities merged today during remarks that CEO Elon Musk delivered in a video message at Shanghai's annual World Artificial Intelligence Conference.
In his statement, Musk said that Tesla is "very close to Level 5 autonomy," and suggested that it wouldn't be long before the company achieved it, stating, "I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for Level 5 autonomy complete this year."
According to the Society of Automotive Engineers, Level 5 autonomous driving means that the vehicle is capable of performing all driving tasks amid any conditions without the need for human intervention. Currently, Tesla's self-driving mode, Autopilot, features the characteristics of Level 2 autonomous driving, allowing the ability to steer, accelerate, and brake within a lane.
For those who follow Musk (and Tesla) closely, his bold predictions about the company and its proximity to achieving full autonomous driving have been standard fare for the past few years. In 2015, for example, Electrek, a website focused on the electric transportation industry, reported on Musk stating that Tesla is "going to end up with complete autonomy, and I think we will have complete autonomy in approximately two years."
Musk's claim that Tesla will achieve Level 5 autonomous driving by the end of 2020 is the second time this month that the subject of self-driving has come up for the company. Consistent with what Musk had suggested several months ago, Tesla recently announced that it had raised the cost for the full self-driving (FSD) package to $8,000, a $1,000 increase over its previous amount.