Tesla CEO Elon Musk likes autonomous driving cars, but prefers term 'autopilot'

2012 Tesla Model S
2012 Tesla Model S
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Looks like Tesla might be hiding more in its software than blind spot detection and adaptive cruise control. According to Bloomberg, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is "discussing" autonomous cars with Google, specifically the Lidar laser tracking system. Oh, and if you're going to have a self-driving future Tesla vehicle, then you shouldn't call it autonomous. Instead, Musk prefers the term autopilot. As he told Bloomberg, "Self-driving sounds like it's going to do something you don't want it to do. Autopilot is a good thing to have in planes, and we should have it in cars."

Any Tesla robot chauffeur is a ways away – Musk Tweeted it is "still a few years from production," but Google has been working hard on driverless cars (with green cred, too, since the test mules are mostly Toyota Prius hybrids). In fact, the search company says the technology could be ready for prime time in as little as three to five years – though safety regulations and other logistical questions will likely push that back, perhaps a decade. The government's work on self-driving vehicles is mostly the purview of DARPA and its Urban Challenge and Grand Challenge test courses.

Musk says – surprise – that Tesla's system is better than what's come before, telling Bloomberg, "The problem with Google's current approach is that the sensor system is too expensive. Its better to have an optical system, basically cameras with software that is able to figure out what's going on just by looking at things." He did try to quell excitement about the idea of a driverless Telsa by Tweeting, "Am a fan of Larry, Sergey & Google in general, but self-driving cars comments to Bloomberg were just off-the-cuff. No big announcement here."

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