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Tesla: Robotaxis coming to US next year

Tesla CEO Elon Musk says his company's robotaxis will be in some US markets next year. (AAP)

Tesla robotaxis with no human drivers will be available in some US markets next year, Chief Executive Elon Musk says.

Chief Executive Elon Musk says Tesla robotaxis with no human drivers will be available in some US markets next year, continuing a habit of bold pronouncements exciting investors but often missing deadlines.

"Probably two years from now we'll make a car with no steering wheels or pedals," Musk predicted, while acknowledging he is often late to meet aggressive targets.

Central to this promise is a new microchip for self-driving vehicles unveiled by Musk on Monday during a webcast presentation.

Made by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd in Texas, the chip now in all vehicles is hoped to give Tesla an edge over rivals and show its massive investment in autonomous driving - described by Musk as "basically our entire expense structure" - will pay off.

The webcast presentation came two days before Tesla is expected to announce a quarterly loss on fewer deliveries of its Model 3 sedan, which represents Tesla's attempt to become a volume car maker.

After launching the event with detailed technical descriptions of Tesla's progress on hardware and software by top executives, Musk began hawking the Model 3 and its potential.

"The fundamental message consumers should be taking away today is it's financially insane to buy something other than a Tesla. It's like buying a horse," saying Tesla was the only company to have a full self-driving suite of hardware.

Tesla's use of the term "full self-driving" garners criticism, as it sells such an option today that is not yet "Level 4," or fully autonomous by industry standards, in which the car can handle all aspects of driving in most circumstances with no human intervention.

Musk has said that with the hardware complete, improvements in software will allow vehicles to fully drive themselves in future.

The technology faces many regulatory hurdles both in Washington and from local governments.

Global car makers, large technology companies and start-ups are developing self-driving - including Alphabet Inc's Waymo and Uber Technologies Inc - but experts say it will be years before the systems are ready for prime time.

"A year from now we'll have over a million cars with full self-driving, software, everything," Musk predicted.

Investors appeared unmoved by the chip announcement but shares rose slightly in after-hour trading following the announcement of the robotaxis.

Musk took a swipe at competitors relying on Lidar, light-based sensors that are a key element in most other self-driving systems.

"Lidar is a fools' errand. And anyone relying on Lidar is doomed," said Musk, who has been vocal about the technology's limitations. Tesla vehicles rely on cameras and radars as their vision system for self-driving.

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