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May 7, 2013

Tesla talking with Google about 'autopilot' systems for cars

(Continued)

LOS ANGELES —

Musk is determined to bring the cost of Tesla's cars down so that the company can sell to mainstream consumers. Tesla's Model S sedan has a $69,900 base price, and Musk says the company still intends to squeeze expenses to offer a model for about $30,000 within a few years. The Roadster, the company's first offering, started at $109,000.

Google, in an emailed statement, declined to comment on Musk's comments.

Google's driverless technology is guided by Sebastian Thrun, former head of Stanford University's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Thrun led the Stanford team that won a $2 million prize in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge of autonomous vehicles, finishing with the best time on a rugged 132-mile (212 kilometer) course in the Mojave Desert.

"We've had some technical discussions with Google" about its Light Detection and Ranging, or Lidar, laser tracking system, Musk said last week, noting that it's an expensive approach that may not prove feasible, Musk said.

"I think Tesla will most likely develop its own autopilot system for the car, as I think it should be camera-based, not Lidar-based," Musk said Monday in an email. "However, it is also possible that we do something jointly with Google."

Musk wrote a follow-up post on Twitter about Google.

"Am a fan of Larry, Sergey & Google in general, but self- driving cars comments to Bloomberg were just off-the-cuff," Musk wrote. "No big announcement here."

Musk, who has developed a reputation for speaking freely through Twitter and in interviews, said it's possible Tesla could be acquired at some point in the future.

"That's one of the possible outcomes, I suppose," he said, adding such a development isn't likely soon.

"I'd guess it would come from outside the auto industry," Musk said. "It would be a buyer with a very large cash position," he said, without elaborating.

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