The race toward fully autonomous vehicles seems to be slowing somewhat, not because there’s a clear winner and competitors are bowing out, but because those pursuing such products – automakers and other tech companies – are realizing the difficulties of delivering a safe, capable product to consumers. But the wariness of some isn’t stopping Tesla CEO Elon Musk from promising fully autonomous vehicles as soon as next year. In an interview with MIT researcher Lex Fridman, summarized by Ars Technica, Musk said Tesla is less than two years away from offering fully self-driving cars.
Though ambitious, it’s also not the first time Musk has made such promises. In 2015, he predicted fully self-driving cars were two years away. Suffice to say, Tesla missed that deadline. Considering the EV maker has a history of overpromising and underdelivering on often unrealistic deadlines, Musk’s prediction of fully self-driving cars should be taken with a grain (or two) of salt. In the interview, Musk also said Tesla is ahead of its competitors. But he added he could be wrong, too.
And wrong he could be. A study by Navigant Research from earlier this year showed that Cruise Automation, the General Motors subsidiary, and Waymo,
Google’s Alphabet’s self-driving endeavor, were far ahead of the pack when it comes to autonomous vehicle development. The study looked at 10 criteria ranging from technical capability to commercial viability. GM’s Cruise Automation scored 86.6 out of 100, while Tesla ranked far behind. Fifteen companies sit between Tesla and GM in the study. That’s a big gap, especially for a company promising full autonomy within two years’ time.
Meanwhile, GM Cruise is planning to launch its autonomous ride-sharing service, otherwise known as a robotaxi service, by the end of 2019. On the other end of the spectrum, GM currently offers its Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving technology in one model – the Cadillac CT6. Earlier today, the automaker announced that the feature will become available in the Cadillac CT5 this fall.
But many have observed that automakers and tech companies need to exercise caution as they begin delivering autonomous technologies and vehicles to consumers. People will need to understand the abilities and, more importantly, the limitations of the technologies, and automakers will need to clearly communicate when the autonomous systems will work and when they won’t. Anything less than a fully-informed driver, or rather rider, could be deadly.
Source: Ars Technica