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[SAN FRANCISCO] Tesla Motors Inc Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said within two years a customer would be able to summon an electric car to drive autonomously from Los Angeles to New York.
"I might be slightly optimistic on that, but I don't think significantly optimistic that we can do that in two years," Mr Musk said in a press conference on Sunday. He added that it should be technically feasible to have fully autonomous vehicles within 24 to 36 months.
The comments come after the company announced a software upgrade that will enable owners of Model S sedans to park them in a garage or in perpendicular spaces without a driver at the wheel. Mr Musk called this a "baby step" in the development of driver-less cars.
Owners of Model S sedans will be able to park them while standing outside the vehicle if it's within 10m of a garage or narrow space, Tesla said on the eve of the Detroit auto show. The cars can also be summoned from a parking spot, according to the company, which said the tools remain in a beta, or test, version. Model X owners will have the capability in a few weeks, spokeswoman Khobi Brooklyn said in an e-mailed statement.
The upgrade also restricts automated steering on residential roads and streets without a center divider, and will limit the vehicles' speed, Tesla said in an e-mailed statement.
Tesla's so-called 7.1 software update expands on the Autopilot features unveiled in October, which let cars change lanes with turn signals and parallel park.
The functions are a step toward the vision of autonomous or self-driving cars - a pursuit that's stirring interest across the auto industry and beyond.
Technology giant Google Inc is working on driver-less cars, and automotive titans General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co are also pushing in that direction. GM said last week it will invest US$500 million in Lyft Inc and work with the ride- sharing company to develop a network of self-driving cars.
Tesla, co-founded by billionaire Musk, has distinguished itself by automatically pushing over-the-air software updates to customers, refreshing the vehicles with new and enhanced functions.