Elon Musk’s Failed Promises of Tesla’s Fully Autonomous Vehicles Show the Grand Failure of the Tech

To see Tesla’s stock reach all-time highs when its brand leader continues to make false promises and fails to hit his own deadlines is a bit concerning.

Elon Musk disputed a German court ruling issued today that bans the company from using advertising terms like “Autopilot” or “full potential for autonomous driving” on its website. But Elon’s promises of Tesla’s ability to manifest AVs is the stuff of con artist legends.

Makes you wonder just how dumb the new wave of Robinhood investors truly are. Tesla cars might never be truly self-driving cars, in spite of the nice bells and whistles.

  • Tesla vehicles come standard with Autopilot, an advanced driver assistance system that offers a combination of adaptive cruise control and lane steering.
  • The more robust and higher-functioning version of Autopilot is called full self-driving, or FSD, which includes the parking feature Summon as well as Navigate on Autopilot, an active guidance system that navigates a car from a highway on ramp to off ramp, including interchanges and making lane changes.
  • The system now recognizes and responds to traffic lights as well.
  • It’s still far off from being fully a self-driving car however. In fact, the system requires a human driver to remain engaged at all times.

Highly automated vehicles (HAVs) — vehicles that drive themselves some or all of the time — will arrive but later than anticipated and they will be expensive.

Elon Musk’s Gamble with L5 Autonomy is the Worst Moon-Shot of Them All

How to say this nicely? The moonshots have failed to meet even the bearish cases of their timelines. Google’s Waymo was aiming to launch a fully driverless taxi service by the end of 2018 but missed its deadline. GM’s Cruise abandoned plans to launch a commercial service in 2019. Tesla has repeatedly fallen short of Elon Musk’s optimistic timelines for delivering fully self-driving technology.

Yet somehow the key point of future Tesla profitability is somehow missed by retail investors who drink up Elon Musk’s Kool-Aid. Elon Musk might be cool, but Tesla’s entire thesis of self-driving may be deeply flawed, according to most experts.

To say that Elon Musk is the prophet of false prophets is putting it rather nicely. Though the semi-autonomous Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features are loved by some, others say Musk’s driverless dream is far from becoming a reality.

Tesla says the amount of information it can collect on drivers’ habits and accidents will allow it to offer insurance in a way the current industry can’t. The world is certainly better off with 1 million Teslas driving around in 2020, but the future of the smart car still has a long journey ahead.

Making robotaxis cheaper than owning a vehicle will also be a significant barrier to their adoption as the AV sector eventually melds with the gig-economy like Lyft, Uber, Didi and others. Tesla will have cheaper better cars by 2025, but the reality of self-driving cars will still likely be a murky one.

Tesla is Seriously Overvalued

Tesla is a nice EV company, but does it warrant the $330 billion USD on the New York Stock Exchange? It won’t be a leader in self-driving technology. As AV startups implode, Tesla can keep promising and nobody really cares. Waymo, formerly the Google self-driving car project, has long been considered the industry leader. However its progress demonstrates the barriers to the tech as significant, taking years longer than anticipated and hitting plateaus.

AVs will make our roads safer and reduce auto insurance — well, eventually. China might surprise the U.S. and become the global leader in the robo taxi race. China’s Didi certainly looks ahead of Uber and Lyft. In 2016, Musk said a Tesla would soon drive itself across the U.S. That still hasn’t happened. Four years later, his promise is still an empty one. Investors pretend Tesla is less a manufacturing company and more a tech/software company, but the reality just doesn’t bear fruit.

You have to be seriously misinformed in 2020 to believe what Elon Musk says. Tesla vehicles will finally be truly autonomous this year, Elon Musk told an artificial intelligence conference in China, yet again in 2020.

Elon Musk has also said “It’s financially insane to buy anything other than a Tesla”. Waymo’s slow progress made investors more skeptical about the prospects for other self-driving efforts like Aurora and Zoox, but oddly not Tesla. Tesla doesn’t even use the same LiDAR basis for its tech. Elon Musk has of course said that “anyone relying on LiDAR is doomed.”

Tesla vs. LiDAR

Tesla is a contrarian here literally betting that camera-only algorithms can work surprisingly well. “I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for level five autonomy complete this year,” Musk said. “I think there are no fundamental challenges remaining for level five autonomy.” Are we to believe Elon Musk? Of course most of his investors do.

In late June 2020 Waymo and Volvo announced an exclusive partnership to build a new self-driving electric vehicle for use in a ride-hailing service. That is, Waymo says it is an ‘exclusive’ supplier of Level 4 technology to Volvo. China’s Geely owns Volvo, in yet another show of how Google is tethered to China.

Tesla’s Future Subscription is Key to its Future

Tesla’s entire path to profitability hinges on a future subscription for Tesla clients. This supposed “full self-driving” package can be added on to its vehicles for an ever-increasing price (currently $8,000 online). The company needs such revenues to lower the costs of its EV vechicles as the rest of the world catches up. However four years later, after promises, there’s no sign Tesla can even achieve the engineering feat.

The Waymo One partnership with Volvo (Geely) is deep, but it only refers to L4. Level 4 vehicles can operate without a human driver behind the wheel, but only within a specific geographic location and under certain conditions, like good weather. The reality is we might be waiting until 2030 for a fully functional L5.

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