Full self-driving hardware will be built into every new Tesla, Elon Musk has announced.
New cars will ship with the cameras, sensors and super computer needed to automate journeys, the Tesla founder told reporters last night.
But until autonomous vehicles are legal, Musk said the technology would only work in “shadow mode”, harvesting data about the world’s roads.
He hopes the data will be used to prove to regulators that computers make safer drivers than humans.
Tesla engineers are still testing the autonomous driving software, but Musk hinted that it could be ready as soon as next year.
He hopes that by the end of 2017 a Tesla could drive in autonmous mode from LA to New York “without the need for a single touch, Reuters reported.
The company also announced that the controversial autopilot feature will be disabled in new models.
The technology enables cars to hold and changes lanes and brake in emergencies without human input.
It came under scrutiny earlier this year when a man was killed driving a Tesla Model S while using the Autopilot function.
The US National Transportation Safety Board reported that the driver had been speeding before he collided with a lorry.
New models will get the same Autopilot features as old models by December, Musk said.
He said it made financial sense to build the technology into the cars now because it’s cheaper than retrofitting them at a later date.
The hardware package costs $8,000 per car, Reuters reported.
Some commentators have questioned whether it’s worth investing in an expensive self-driving car now, when the technology isn’t road ready and regulation hasn’t yet caught up.
Edmunds Inc analyst Jessica Caldwell told Reuters that rival car makers could produce better solutions by the time the technology is legal, making the hardware “obsolete almost as soon as it’s activate for prime time”.