African-born Elon Musk says he is very close to making cars that can drive themselves.

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) is “very close” to achieving level 5 autonomous driving technology, Chief Executive Elon Musk said on 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 (WAIC).

“I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for level 5 autonomy complete this year.”

Automakers and tech companies including Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) Waymo and Uber Technologies (UBER.N) 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.

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.

Tesla has become the highest-valued automaker as its shares surged to record highs and its market capitalisation overtook that of former front-runner Toyota Motors Corp (7203.T).

Reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Yilei Sun and Yingzhi Yang in Beijing; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Stephen Coates


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