CEO Elon Musk revealed that the company decided to compete Uber and Lyft by using its strategy for an autonomous ride-hailing fleet. Robo-taxis are essentially any Tesla vehicle with autonomous-driving functionality. To turn a Tesla into a robo-taxi, a car’s owner simply adds it to the Tesla Network platform via the company’s app.
Raj Rajkumar, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University said:
“It sounds like a pipe dream that he’s selling people. I think it’s basically overpromising, which is typical of Elon Musk.”
However, in order to prove skeptics wrong, Musk is now on the mission to convince regulators that Tesla’s technology for transforming potentially hundreds of thousands of electric cars into self-driving vehicles will produce robots that are safer and more reliable than humans.
He also commented that his vehicles will make money for their owners by autonomously transporting people when their owners are not using them — like a driverless Uber or Lyft ride.
Some of the companies that are aiming to have their fully autonomous cars began carrying passengers in small geographic areas as early as this year, but many experts don’t believe that they will be in widespread use for next ten years.
However, Tesla isn’t “just any company”. For example, their technology does not come with the light beam sensors called Lidar that many industry experts consider to be essential equipment for robotic vehicles to navigate the road.
“Buying Some Other Vehichle than Tesla is Like Buying a Horse”
In his own manner, Musk called Lidar a “fool’s errand” and “frigging stupid” in a putdown of companies such as Google spin-off Waymo and General Motors’ Cruise Automation that are including the light beam sensors in their systems. He said:
“The fundamental message that consumers should be taking today is that it is financially insane to buy anything other than a Tesla. It will be like owning a horse in three years. I mean, fine if you want to own a horse. But you should go into it with that expectation.”
It’s there for when we start competing with Uber/Lyft & people allow their car to earn money for them as part of the Tesla shared autonomy fleet. In case someone messes up your car, you can check the video.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 5, 2019
According to Tesla official website, their vehicles have autopilot function which includes the following features: “match speed to traffic conditions, keep within a lane, automatically change lanes without requiring driver input, transition from one freeway to another, exit the freeway when your destination is near, self-park when near a parking spot and be summoned to and from your garage.”
However, the autopilot features require the driver to be actively supervising the car.
All Tesla vehicles have specific hardware that is capable of “full self-driving capabilities”.
According to them, the hardware, however, is not useful until it has been activated with appropriate software updates. Tesla has no possibility to activate such software until “billions of miles of experience” have proven the features to be safer than humans and regulatory approval has been received, according to the site.
Sam Abuelsamid, senior analyst at Navigant seems to be more positive about this news. He said that the company’s claims about the capability of its AI chip were noteworthy and should have competitors like Nvidia and Intel-owned Mobileye nervous.
Mike Ramsey, a Gartner analyst thinks that the idea that you can have a vehicle that can make complex decisions for full self-driving is just not plausible at this point. If he is right, this wouldn’t be the first time Musk has gotten ahead of himself.
Do not forget that Musk once forecasted that Tesla would make 500,000 cars in 2018, but it produced half that many. Last summer, he said Tesla would make 10,000 Model 3 sedans a week — about twice the number currently coming off the assembly line.
Just for a reminder, at the beginning of the month, Tesla stocks were down sharply on terrible Q1 delivery numbers. Those numbers came out as the CEO readies to learn his faith resulting from being held in contempt of court for violating an agreement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange.