Electric-car maker Tesla has released a bit more detail about its plans to jump on the self-driving car bandwagon.

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] will build a self-driving car within three years, CEO Elon Musk said in an interview with the British Financial Times.

If the company carries through on its promise, it may beat other companies--including Mercedes-Benz and Nissan--by several years.

Musk said Tesla will develop the technology for a self-driving car completely in-house.

That counters speculation earlier this year that it would partner with Google and use the search giant's self-driving technology, which it has been testing for several years.

In other words, it will follow the same mentality that guided development of the Model S.

The company posted a job listing for an Advanced Driver Assistance Systems Controls Engineer on its website. That individual will spearhead Tesla's autonomous car efforts.

Musk refers to Tesla's self-driving technology as an "autopilot," calling a fully-autonomous car a "bridge too far" in the Financial Times interview. Drivers will reportedly be able to switch the system on and off, just like an airplane's autopilot.

This could potentially allow Tesla to sidestep the many legal issues surrounding self-driving cars. So far, California and Nevada have legalized testing of these cars on public roads, but their status in other states is ambiguous at best.

In the race to put a self-driving car into production, Tesla's main automotive rivals will be Mercedes and Nissan, both of which have pledged to put autonomous vehicles into production by 2020.

Mercedes took its fully-autonomous S-Class prototype on a 60-mile trip in Germany last month.

Nissan showed a prototype autonomous car based on the Leaf at its Nissan 360 event in Arizona.


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.