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May 7, 2013

Tesla talking with Google about 'autopilot' systems for cars

(Continued)

LOS ANGELES —

Musk said in the same interview that the company's volatile share price results from "a very polarized opinion about Tesla. We've got a huge short position against Tesla. I mean it's truly enormous. We're typically within the top five most shorted stocks on the market."

Currently, investors have a short interest in 47 percent of Tesla's floating shares, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That ranks Tesla among the most shorted shares on Nasdaq, behind Questcor Pharmaceuticals and Coinstar.

While crash-avoidance systems that can alert a driver or apply brakes in advance of a wreck are coming to cars now, David Strickland, head of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has said autonomous vehicles "are a long way off."

"Self-driving cars are the natural extension of active safety and obviously something we should do," Musk said.

Google's self-driving cars are currently allowed on public roads for testing purposes in Nevada, California and Florida.

Toyota, also a Tesla investor, in January showed a driverless test vehicle in Las Vegas equipped with a Lidar device, radar and cameras and sensors — something more like the approach that Musk suggests.

Likewise, Toyota, the world's largest automaker, wants to create a virtual "co-pilot" that helps drivers avoid accidents, rather than self-driving cars and trucks. Tesla isn't discussing driverless-car technology with either Toyota or Daimler, which is also a shareholder, Musk said. Self-driving vehicles aren't a top priority at the moment.

"We're not focused on autopilot right now; we will be in the future," Musk said. "Autopilot is not as important as accelerating the transition to electric cars, or to sustainable transport."

Musk made a similar comment on Twitter.

"Creating an autopilot for cars at Tesla is an important, but not yet top priority," Musk wrote. "Still a few years from production."

With assistance from Brian Womack and Stephen West in San Francisco and Angela Greiling Keane in Washington.

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