Autonomous vehicles have become a hot talking point in recent years, as major firms like Google continue high-profile development of the technology.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has also expressed an interest in recent years, and now tells Nikkei that the firm could introduce self-driving technology in the next three years.

Musk says that full auto-pilot technology will appear within a "five- or six-year time frame", but some aspects of the technology would appear in the lower-priced Model 3 electric sedan due in three years time.

Tesla will develop the system and software itself, but sensors and subcomponents will be outsourced to other companies.

Incorporating some autonomous components should help Tesla get a head-start on the industry, though it's worth noting that several other firms, most notably one of Tesla's existing partners Mercedes-Benz, already features significant autonomous features in its high-end cars.

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Some of this technology is notably missing from Tesla's existing Model S sedan, but autonomous tech fits well with the firm's emphasis on high technology--such as the large touchscreen display and internet access in the Model S.

"I think in the long term, all Tesla cars will have auto-pilot capability," Musk told the Nikkei.

Musk's comments came at the same Japanese launch event where he hinted of future collaborations with Japanese automaker Toyota.

As a deal to supply battery packs for the Toyota RAV4 EV draws to a close, Musk said that the two firms could work on another "significant" project over the next few years, one aimed at a higher-volume market.

Tesla also plans further work with its battery supplier Panasonic. That relationship will continue for the time being, said Musk.


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