Tesla "won't have regulatory approval" to release an autonomous driving system in 2022, according to recent statements by CEO Elon Musk reported by Automotive News (subscription required).
The automaker already sells a $15,000 driver-assistance software package called "Full Self Driving," which National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) boss Jennifer Homendy in 2021 called "misleading and irresponsible." The system does not allow cars to drive themselves. Musk regularly has promised to achieve autonomous driving through software updates since 2016.
During Tesla's quarterly earnings call this week, Musk said he expects to release updated Full Self Driving software later this year that would limit the need for human drivers to make control inputs, but said allowing cars to drive themselves with no one behind the wheel was another matter.
2022 Tesla Model S Plaid
"The car will be able to take you from your home to your work, your friend's house, the grocery store without touching the wheel," he said, adding that "It's a separate matter as to will it have regulatory approval. It won't have regulatory approval at that time."
Musk said Tesla will release another software update in 2023 aimed at showing regulators that the technology is safer than a human driver, according to the report. He's been making similar promises since 2016, when Tesla launched a hardware suite Musk said would enable autonomous driving once complimentary software was developed and added to cars via over-the-air (OTA) updates.
Musk reiterated that promise in 2019, when Tesla launched a new computer for its driver-assist systems, saying he expected self-driving cars the following year. While Tesla has added some functionality, Full Self Driving still requires driver supervision at all times, putting it firmly at Level 2 on the SAE autonomy, where Level 5 represents fully autonomous driving.
2022 Tesla lineup (Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.)
The system also hasn't been totally reliable. Earlier this year Tesla issued a recall for nearly 54,000 cars because a software update might have allowed them to disobey stop signs. That likely won't inspire confidence in the regulators that will have approve any future Tesla self-driving cars.
Yet Tesla has steadily raised prices on Full Self Driving, which builds on the automaker's standard Autopilot system. It raised the price from $10,000 to $12,000 in January, with another price bump to the current $15,000 following that.
During the same conference call where he discussed the self-driving regulatory situation, Musk also said Tesla was developing a next-generation platform for EVs smaller and more affordable than the Model 3 and Model Y. Musk didn't go into detail on how Tesla would cut costs for these new vehicles, or discuss a timeline for when they might appear.