Everything Elon Musk Has Said About Tesla's Self-Driving Cars

Elon Musk, the newly named "Technoking" of Tesla, has had a lot to say about his car company's self-driving feature Autopilot, which may have played a role in the death Saturday of two passengers who were reportedly riding in a Tesla with nobody behind the wheel.

The incident took place in Harris County, Texas, when a Tesla Model S crashed into a tree and caught fire. As Newsweek reported, the fire burned for four hours and took 23,000 gallons of water to extinguish. It's not yet been determined whether the Autopilot feature was engaged at the time of the crash, but, according to KTRK, one victim was in the front passenger seat and the other was in the back.

Musk has tweeted about the Autopilot feature six times this month, boasting about its ability to prevent crashes.

Essentially, passive Autopilot (car intervenes only when crash probability is high) cuts crashes in half.

Active Autopilot (car is driving itself) cuts crashes in half again.

Doesn’t mean there are no crashes, but, on balance, Autopilot is unequivocally safer.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 17, 2021

Musk also recently touted the company's first-quarter safety report for 2021, which said that Tesla recorded one accident per 4.19 million miles driven while the Autopilot feature was engaged.

One of Musk's boldest claims about the future of Autopilot is that it would "reduce accidents by a factor of 10." He repeated the claim, which appears to have been first mentioned in 2018 on CBS This Morning, on Twitter on Saturday, shortly before the fatal crash in Texas.

Tesla with Autopilot engaged now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle https://t.co/6lGy52wVhC

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 17, 2021

The Autopilot feature is not without its limitations. Despite the name, and Tesla's claim that it is the "future of driving," the company's website states that "current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous."

Crashes while using Autopilot have been reported before, including one incident in March where a 22-year-old Tesla driver hit a Michigan State Police patrol car with the Autopilot feature engaged.

As early as July 2020, Elon Musk said that Tesla's self-driving feature was approaching "level-five" autonomy, which would require no input from the driver. Musk told the World Artificial Intelligence Conference that he expected the "basic functionality" for level-five autonomy would be completed before the end of 2020.

Tesla's website currently states that new vehicles "have the hardware needed in the future for full self-driving in almost all circumstances," and it details the futuristic experience that fully-autonomous driving would bring, but the technology hasn't yet caught up to Tesla's goals.

In an exchange with a Twitter user on April 15, Musk discussed his July prediction, noting that the key to solving autonomous driving is to make progress on developing "real-world" artificial intelligence. "This is insanely hard," Musk added.

Since Musk's tweet about the safety of Autopilot on Saturday, his Twitter account has been relatively quiet, retweeting only one post on Sunday.

Elon Musk On Tesla Autopilot
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has had a lot to say about his company's Autopilot feature, which may have been connected to two deaths in an accident on Saturday in Texas. Here Musk speaks during the unveiling of the Tesla Model Y in Hawthorne, California, on March 14, 2019. Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images