There have been really significant changes in AI or machine learning in the last few years - pattern recognition is performing really well for many web companies, speech recognition has been completely solved, AlphaGo defeated one of the best human Go players, reinforcement learning is making progress too based on large datasets (which Tesla cleverly has been building).
Advanced general AI is not in any way required for road vehicles, which have clear signage, delineated routes, and a set of rules of the road to guide them. Their problems so far seem to be recognising certain edge conditions like a lorry parked sideways across a road - these are not going to be a problem for long and could be solved in multiple ways (hardware, software). Autonomous cars do not need a very sophisticated model of the world and it is improving all the time.
I think the important factor for autonomous vehicles is that they only have to beat humans. They are already safer than a normal human driver in most conditions and that is only going to improve. If you think about it is kind of crazy that we allow humans with minimal training unsupervised control of large multi-ton machines which travel at high speeds next to unprotected pedestrians.
If you take humans out of the loop, things will be a lot safer, as the actions of the other vehicles are more predictable - if roads were clear of human drivers machine drivers could take over tomorrow. I expect at some point if sales of semi-autonomous cars keep growing we’ll hit a tipping point where it becomes sensible to exclude human drivers in larger global cities, and at that point its game over for human control of vehicles.
I don’t hold any Tesla as yet, by my thoughts are here (threads were moved around) - they are ahead on multiple fronts and are behaving much more like a software company than an established manufacturer - Ford and GM for example are hobbled by their past and their reliance on ICE cars for current revenue. This is important in the long run. Musk is unstable but also good at choosing brilliant people and motivating them (as evidenced by SpaceX for example), I think they’d do fine without him soon, once past their cash crunch and a good team are in place.
I do think they are overvalued at present for their likely future revenue though, unless they manage to become a dominant global player very quickly.