Elon Musk: Robots will drive a network of Tesla taxis from 2020

(c) Sky News 2019: <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/elon-musk-robots-will-drive-a-network-of-tesla-taxis-from-2020-11701440">Elon Musk: Robots will drive a network of Tesla taxis from 2020</a>
 

The future of Elon Musk's electric car business Tesla will be in developing completely autonomous self-driving vehicles beginning next year.

The billionaire chief executive, who also helms SpaceX, announced that Tesla will be creating a network of self-driving taxis to compete against Uber and similar companies.

His comments come ahead of a call with investors in which Mr Musk will have to defend Tesla's financial position following a year in which its shares have performed worse than the NASDAQ average.

Last year the CEO caused the share price to plummet during such a call when he dismissed an analyst as a "boring bonehead" after being asked questions about a record net loss.

Mr Musk, who clashed with Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg about the risks posed by artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, is now putting his confidence in the maturity of the technology to operate a car on public roads.

In his sales pitch, Mr Musk claimed that buying another model of car today was equivalent to buying a horse because Tesla was so advanced in its development of self-driving technology.

Whether or not the computer systems which self-driving cars use are road safe has been a topic of huge debate for regulators, insurance companies and car manufacturers.

There have been a number of incidents, including at Tesla, in which cars in semi-autonomous mode - where they still require driver input - have been involved in crashes, some of them fatal.

Some technology experts believe these incidents show that autonomous cars aren't yet anywhere near safe. Others have noted they have all involved a critical degree of human error.

Professor Raj Rajkumar, at Carnegie Mellon University, said: "It sounds like a pipe dream that he's selling people. I think it's basically over-promising, which is typical of Elon Musk."

Analysts expect Tesla to report a loss of more than $300m (£230m) for the first quarter of 2019 following a low sales count.

The company's shares dropped 4% on Monday after Mr Musk's comments.