Elon Musk expects to do coast-to-coast autonomous Tesla drive in 3 to 6 months

Tesla had aimed to do a cross-country U.S. drive in one of its vehicles using fully autonomous driving capabilities by the end of last year. Obviously it didn’t make that goal, or you’d have heard about it. Instead, Tesla CEO Elon Musk now says he anticipates being able to make the trip within three months, or six months at the long end.

Specifically, Musk said on an earnings call in response to a question about the autonomous drive that they’d “probably” be able to “do a coast-to-coast drive in three months, six months at the outside.” When asked whether this feature would then be immediately available to customers, he did say that it “will be a feature that’s available to customers,” without commenting directly on timing of availability.

Musk admitted that he’d “missed the mark on that front,” regarding the original autonomous drive demonstration, but he qualified that Tesla “could’ve done the coast-to-coast drive [last year] but that the company “would’ve had to do too much custom code, effectively gaming it.” It would’ve resulted in a feature that others could haveĀ used in their vehicles as well, but only for that exact cross-country route.

Part of Tesla’s goal is to build a system that’s robust and more generally useful. To that end, Musk said he’s been generally happy about how the company’s work has been progressing on its neural nets for autonomous driving.

“I am pleased with the progress made on the neural net,” Musk said. “It’s kind of like it goes from ‘doesn’t seem like too much progress, doesn’t seem like too much progress’ to ‘wow.’ ”

The CEO compared the progress to what Google’s DeepMind achieved with AlphaGo, where it seemed relatively lacking in skill at first, but quickly made leaps to where it could beat human players, and eventually to where it was able to handily beat any human players in the world in a relatively short span of time.