SHANGHAI/BEIJING -- Tesla is "very close" to achieving Level 5 autonomous driving technology, CEO Elon Musk said Thursday, referring to the capability to navigate roads without any driver input.
"I'm extremely confident that Level 5 or essentially complete autonomy will happen, and I think will happen very quickly," Musk said in remarks made via a video message at the opening of Shanghai's annual World Artificial Intelligence Conference.
"I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for Level 5 autonomy complete this year."
Automakers and tech companies including Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo and Uber Technologies Inc. are investing billions in the autonomous driving industry.
However, industry insiders have said it would take time for the technology to get ready and public to trust autonomous vehicles fully.
The California-based automaker currently builds cars with an Autopilot driver-assistance system, which has been linked to a number of crashes, some fatal.
"They can put out as many press releases as they want, but as we’ve continued to see they are still working hard on getting level two and three right," said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, in a statement to Automotive News. "To avoid this charade, and consumer deception, NHTSA could have written performance standards for features like automatic emergency braking or forward collision warning, or even could have required driver monitoring systems for vehicles with ADAS features to avoid automation complacency. But of course that hasn’t happened."
Tesla is also developing new heat-projection or cooling systems to enable more advanced computers in cars, Musk said.
Industry data showed Tesla sold nearly 15,000 China-made Model 3 sedans last month. In Thursday’s video, Musk stressed that original engineering on Tesla technology was an important facet of its Chinese operation, which is anchored by a massive plant in Shanghai.
Tesla has become the highest-valued automaker as its shares surged to record highs and its market capitalization overtook that of former front-runner Toyota.
Automotive News and Bloomberg contributed to this report.