Elon Musk Thinks Cars You Can Drive Might Be Outlawed Someday

screenshot via YouTube/NVIDIA

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has a vision of the future, and that vision is of self-driving cars… and only self-driving cars. Speaking at the 2015 GPU Technology Conference recently, Musk stated that self-driving cars will soon become so common that driver-controlled cars will be considered unsafe and will probably be outlawed.

We’ll take autonomous cars for granted in quite a short time,” he told NVidia co-founder and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang at the conference. “In the distant future, [legislators] may outlaw driven cars because they’re too dangerous.”

However, Musk made it clear that this future will be very distant indeed. He noted that switching over to fully autonomous vehicles could take as long as 20 years, according to the Verge, explaining that the automotive industrial base is enormous and that car and truck production capacity is currently limited to about 100 million new vehicles a year.

In addition to the sheer numbers involved in replacing regular cars with self-driving ones, Musk predicted that regulators won’t allow self-driving cars until they’ve seen several years of “compelling” evidence about their safety in comparison to driver-controlled cars.

Eventually, though, Musk believes that this slow transition will change the way people think about self-driving cars.

It would be like an elevator. They used to have elevator operators, and then we developed some simple circuitry to have elevators just automatically come to the floor that you’re at … the car is going to be just like that,” said Musk.

And when that happens, it may very well be time to outlaw cars driven by people, as the computer-controlled ones will be safer.

You can’t have a person driving a 2-ton death machine,” said Musk.

Those worried that the government is coming to take away their cars can take comfort in the fact that this likely won’t be happening until a number of technological roadblocks are overcome. Among these is the fact that it’s apparently really hard to get vehicles to drive themselves at speeds of between 15 and 50 miles an hour due to unexpected things like potholes, road closures, bicyclists, open manholes and more.

Tesla also wants to be sure that no one can hack into its vehicles. Currently, Musk told Huang, this isn’t an issue, since as long as the steering wheel and brake pedals exist, drivers can override any potential problems manually.

Continuing with the elevator comparison, Musk said that autonomous cars could soon become everyday items. “I think it’s going to become normal, like an elevator,” he said. “There used to be elevator operators and then we came up with circuitry so the elevator knew to come to your floor. Cars will be like that.”

This doesn’t mean that Musk wants to start the robot apocalypse and stop people from driving, however. After the conference, he tweeted, “To be clear, Tesla is strongly in favor of people being allowed to drive their cars and always will be. Hopefully, that is obvious.”