"In the distant future, (legislators) may outlaw driven cars because they're too dangerous," Musk said at a conference held by graphics chipmaker Nvidia Corp.
Musk took to Twitter after the conference, saying: "To be clear, Tesla is strongly in favor of people being allowed to drive their cars and always will be. Hopefully, that is obvious."
He added: "However, when self-driving cars become safer than human-driven cars, the public may outlaw the latter. Hopefully not."
Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang held a "fireside chat" with Musk, who gave car shoppers a clearer picture of what to expect with self-driving cars.
"We'll take autonomous cars for granted in quite a short time," Musk said. "I almost view it as a solved problem. We know what to do and we'll be there in a few years."
But Musk predicted that federal regulators will be reluctant to allow self-driving vehicles until they're presented with two or three years of compelling evidence about their safety in comparison with driver-controlled vehicles.
Chris Urmson, the head of Google's self-driving cars project made a prediction of his own during a TED talk on Tuesday. He said Google's self-driving car may be available within less than five years.
"We've made some pretty exciting progress and at this point we're pretty convinced this technology is going to come to market," Urmson said.
Edmunds says: A seismic change is coming in our relationship with cars, at least according to one of the auto industry's most high-profile prophets.