Home Tech Tesla Is Going All In on Robotaxis—Buckle Up

Tesla Is Going All In on Robotaxis—Buckle Up

0 comment
Tesla Is Going All In on Robotaxis—Buckle Up

Mark your calendars: Tesla CEO Elon Musk suggested this afternoon that his electric car maker is going all-in on autonomous vehicle technology – and that Tesla’s robotaxi will be unveiled on August 8.

The announcement, posted by Musk on X Friday afternoon capped off a weird day of reports and counter-reports, sending Tesla shares on a rollercoaster, dropping six points on the day before recovering in after-hours trading. Earlier in the day, Reuters reported this that Tesla had canceled long-term plans to develop an affordable electric vehicle for the masses. It is widely believed that the “next generation” vehicle is the key to the survival of the electric car manufacturer, especially as competition in the electric car space increases. Instead, the news agency reported, Tesla would focus on building a robotaxi, which would use much of the same hardware as the low-cost vehicle.

But Musk logged on to X to deny at least part of the Reuters story. ‘Reuters lies (again)’ he posted, without indicating what the news agency did wrong. Hours later, he appeared to confirm part of the report, posting that Tesla’s next product release would focus on robotaxis.

The apparent pivot is surprising for a number of reasons.

Tesla has been promising true self-driving technology for years, but has not delivered it. In 2016, said Tesla that all of the company’s vehicles would come with the hardware needed to drive themselves, allowing drivers to take a nap or even drive their car across the country without anyone in it.

In a “Master plan” that Musk posted that year, he outlined a (still) futuristic scenario in which Tesla owners could share their autonomous vehicles with others. “If true self-driving is approved by regulators,” he wrote, customers “could add your car to the Tesla shared fleet by simply tapping a button in the Tesla phone app and have it generate revenue for you while you drive.” you are driving. at work or on holiday.” In 2019, Musk told a room full of investors that by next year the automaker would have “more than a million Tesla cars on the road with fully self-driving hardware.” That didn’t happen.

Meanwhile, Tesla’s driver assistance technology, called Full Self-Driving, is technically only a “level 2” on the five-point autonomy scale, meaning the car can only drive itself under the driver’s supervision. Tesla’s latest software update for self-driving cars is the first not to be labeled as ‘beta’ by the automaker.

Yet Tesla’s driver assistance technology has been heavily criticized by the National Transportation Safety Board, the US transportation safety watchdog. A two-year investigation by the country’s top road safety regulator concluded late last year with the finding that Tesla’s technology could be misused by drivers because it did not force them to pay enough attention while driving. Tesla, which said it disagreed with regulators’ analysis, has sent fixes to customers via over-the-air software updates. Tesla claims its driver assistance systems are safer than human drivers.

Moreover, other autonomous vehicle developers have faced serious growing pains over the past five years. A technology once touted as “just around the corner” turned out to be both more difficult and far more expensive than ever planned. Today, years after most major car and technology manufacturers committed to self-driving software, only a few major players remain. After billions of dollars in dedicated research and development and more than 7 million miles driven, Google spinoff Waymo is only offering paid taxi rides in two cities – Phoenix and San Francisco – although it plans to launch in Austin, Texas, as well as Los Angeles and soon the broader San Francisco Bay Area. Another robotaxi competitor, General Motors’ Cruise, has suspended its entire service after a driverless taxi struck and injured a pedestrian, leading to a clash with California regulators. If Tesla wants to roll out robotaxi services everywhere its cars are sold, its plans will be even more ambitious than those of these competitors, who have been working on the problem of autonomy for years.

You may also like