Tesla’s Newest Car May Not Have a Steering Wheel

The steering wheel and screen of the inside of a Tesla Model 3.
2021 Tesla Model 3 | Tesla

Elon Musk has done it again. One of his recent announcements about the future of Tesla’s driverless cars has people scratching their heads and wondering if what he’s saying is realistic, or even possible. This time Musk’s comments are about a truly driverless car. In a recent all hands Tesla meeting, Musk announced that he was considering releasing the Tesla Model 2 with no steering wheel or pedals. Who needs pesky brakes, anyway?

The Tesla Model 2 will have no steering wheel or pedals

This is quite possibly the most out there thing that Elon Musk has ever said, but it isn’t that wild in terms of autonomous vehicles. Currently Teslas with Full Self-Driving (FSD), which is Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving system, operate at a level 2 autonomy. This is also known as partial driving automation, and as you may imagine, it requires a whole lot of human interaction. 

Still, not everyone believes that they need to actually be behind the wheel of their Tesla while it’s operating under FSD, or awake. And that’s lead to a whole lot of crashes and terrifying incidents. 

What Musk is talking about now, a Tesla Model 2 with no steering wheel or pedals, is a level 5 autonomous vehicle. A level 5 system is called full driving automation, and it doesn’t require a human at all. It’s even more advanced than the current rideshare vehicles you may see in places like Arizona, which are level 4 driverless vans. A level 5 autonomous vehicle is so independent, our cars may decide they don’t need us at all anymore. 

The Tesla Model 2 will cost $25,000

It’s important to note that the name of the car hasn’t officially been announced yet, and it’s just being called the Model 2 in the interim. Musk has been hinting for some time that he wants Tesla to come out with a $25,000 car, and it looks like the Model 2 will be it. This would become Tesla’s entry level vehicle, and it would make electric cars and Tesla specifically, much more accessible to people. 

This isn’t the first time that Musk has entertained the idea of a car without a steering wheel or pedals. In 2019 he first showed off the idea of a fully driverless car at Tesla’s AI Day. Although the goal then was to get the car to production by 2021, that clearly hasn’t happened. Now Musk is saying that the temporarily named Model 2 will debut sometime in 2023. 

So how is Musk going to keep this car so affordable? It’s thanks to their new battery effort, which Electrek says could “cut battery costs by over 50%.”

Tesla has a long way to go before they reach level 5 automation

Although Musk’s idea of having a fully autonomous vehicle is certainly cool, it seems to be far from reality. Currently Tesla is rolling out their FSD software, with mixed results. While some of the small group of beta testers have been very happy with FSD, others have not. And Tesla is under fire for advertising their cars as being more autonomous as they really are. 

With Tesla’s FSD 10 coming out Friday, September 10, 2021, we may get a better idea of how fine-tuned FSD has become. Musk has been expanding the pool of those who can access the FSD software a little at a time. This is because the software is essentially being tested by Tesla owners who download and utilize the software. FSD 10.1 is expected to drop two weeks after 10, and that will be to an even wider audience. 

So will we see a Tesla Model 2 with no steering wheel or pedals in 2023? It’s hard to say. There would certainly have to be a greater adoption of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software, and Tesla will have to remedy some of its defects. Additionally, people need to be responsible when operating semi-autonomous vehicles, and the government and safety organizations have to stay on top of this ever-changing technology. If everything comes together, it’s possible that we’ll see a level five Tesla sooner rather than later.

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