GEARING TO GO: Tesla's first SUV, the Model X, will go on sale later in 2015. Image: AFP / Spencer Platt
MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — Tesla Motors' CEO Elon Musk says he expects deliveries of its new SUV, the Model X, in three or four months in the US.
Tesla, however, does not operate in South Africa, though Musk is South African.
Musk also told investors at Tesla's annual meeting that the company planned to let some drivers start testing an autopilot feature at the end of this month (June 2015).
THIRD MODEL, FIRST SUV
The Model X will be Tesla's third vehicle since the company was founded 12 years ago. Currently Tesla makes one car, the Model S sedan.
Tesla originally planned to put the Model X into production in 2013 but has delayed it several times to work on technical issues. Musk said he's test-driving the Model X now and is pleased with its progress. He said the company is focused on making sure key features, such as the Model X's wing-like doors and its sliding rear seats, work correctly.
"It's got to be a genuine improvement in utility and aesthetics," he said.
Tesla began 2015 with 20 000 reservations for the Model X. The company plans to deliver 55 000 Model S sedans and Model X SUVs by the end of 2015.
Tesla's autopilot feature lets the car drive itself at highway speeds. It is also expected that owners will be able to summon their vehicles autonomously from a car park as long as they are on private property. Autopilot will eventually be available through a free software update to customers with recent versions of the Model S sedan.
The Model X will probably have this system, too.
Musk stressed that drivers must remain alert and be ready to take back control of the car. "It is simply meant as a driver-assistance feature," he said.
Musk said it would be technically feasible - in about three years - for the driver to fall asleep and let the car do the driving. He added that it would take several years after that for regulators to approve fully autonomous driving.
"That's my best guess right now," he said. "With each passing year, my estimate for when it will happen gets closer. This is both interesting and alarming."