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U.S. Business Musk says Tesla will lead when autonomous cars taken for granted

Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks at his company's factory in Fremont, California, June 22, 2012, as the car company began delivering its Model S electric sedan.

Noah Berger/REUTERS

Tesla Motors Inc. chief executive officer Elon Musk said that we'll "take autonomous cars for granted" in a short period of time and signalled that the auto maker plans to be a leader in the nascent market.

"Tesla is the leader in electric cars but also will be the leader in autonomous cars, at least autonomous cars that people can buy," Musk said Tuesday. "We're going to put a lot of effort into autonomous driving. It's going to be the default thing, and it will save a lot of lives."

Musk joined Nvidia Corp. CEO Jen-Hsun Huang to discuss autonomous driving and artificial intelligence at the kickoff to the graphics-chip maker's GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, Calif.

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Nvidia makes the chips that provide the computing power for the infotainment system in the Palo Alto, Calif.-based auto maker's Model S sedan. Nvidia's Tegra 2 chip powers the instrument cluster, and the Tegra 3 powers the 17-inch touch screen.

Tesla has the ability to push software updates out to its current Model S customers, so the car can automatically be refreshed to include enhanced safety features or capabilities. Musk plans to announce details of the latest software update Thursday and said additional improvements will happen throughout the year.

The auto industry is rapidly adjusting after lagging behind the consumer electronics market. The computer and software that Santa Clara, Calif.-based Nvidia is offering will let auto makers customize in-car technology such as navigation systems and instrument displays. Vehicles increasingly have multiple screens and cameras that require more visual processing power.

'Outlaw Driving'

The cost of processing large amounts of data, a foundation of artificial intelligence work, has fallen as computer chips have gotten faster and the prices of storing and accessing information have dropped. Graphical processing units are also being mass-produced for devices such as video-game consoles.

"We can do autonomous driving easier than people think," Musk said. "It's going to become normal, like an elevator. We used to have elevator operators. The car is just going to be like that: You will be able to tell your car take me home, go here, go there, and it will just do it. In the distant future people may outlaw driving cars because it's too dangerous."

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