Tesla Trumpets Level 4 Autonomy by 2020

CEO Elon Musk says Tesla Inc. will have completely driverless taxis operating in the U.S. next year.

The claim comes two days before Tesla reports a first-quarter loss due in large part to a disappointing drop in deliveries of the company’s Model 3 electric sedan.

Musk says all Tesla models now come equipped with a computer chip capable of delivering Level 4 autonomy—the ability to pilot a car with no human input under most driving conditions—even though the software to do so isn’t yet ready.

The chip was developed and is being supplied by Samsung Electronics Co. Tesla described the system’s capabilities in considerable depth on Monday during a presentation to analysts.

Musk also reiterates his conviction that self-driving cars ultimately will be guided by vision-based camera systems, as are Tesla vehicles, rather than lidar (laser-based radar) sensors. The latter technology, he declares “is doomed.”

Skeptics point out that unresolved regulatory issues make the sale and deployment of highly autonomous vehicles illegal at the moment. They also observe that Musk previously claimed that Tesla cars would be fully autonomous by 2018. Consumer Reports, for one, dismissed Musk’s claims as having “more to do with investors than consumers’ safety.”