Tesla Will Challenge Uber, Lyft With 1 Million Robotaxis: Will This Be The Next Mobility Disruption?
TIn the cacophonic sirens of the launch of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles highly in the market, there comes an announcement from Tesla Inc’s Chief Executive Elon Musk, on 22nd April, at an invitation-only event for investors at Tesla’s Palo Alto-headquarters. Here are some of the bold predictions he promised to deliver by the following year:
•To provide strong competition to its top competitors, like Uber and Lyft, the launch of ‘Robotaxis’, their strategy for an autonomous ride-sharing fleet.
•Tesla launched a high-performance microchip, manufactured with autonomy and safety in mind, which as Musk quoted, is being included in every Tesla produced today.
•These cars are said to be built in with Level 5 autonomy, capable of driving themselves with no limitations. There are currently no Level 5 cars as of now.
A Vent Into Robotaxis
In a room full of investors, on “Autonomy Investor Day”, Elon Musk announced that the era of self-driving car had arrived, at least for Tesla. He explained that any Tesla vehicle could be converted into a robotaxi on connecting the Tesla app to the Tesla network platform. The riders too, would be able to book for a Tesla robotaxi via the same app.
“We will have more than one million robotaxis on the road. A year from now, we’ll have over a million cars with full self-driving, software… everything.”
Musk predicted that these robotaxis could generate the owners a profit up to $30,000 a year. He also adds that these taxis would be significantly cheaper than Uber and Lyft, as they charge about $2-$3 per mile, while Tesla taxis would provide the facility for less than $0.18.
“The fundamental message consumers should be taking today: It`s financially insane to buy something other than a Tesla. It`s like buying a horse,” says Musk, as Tesla is the only company to have a full self-driving suite of hardware.
Musk also unveiled that it believes to stand one step forward than its competitors by launching a microchip for self-driving vehicles to persuade investors its massive investment in autonomous driving will pay off. The company is about halfway through the design process for the next-generation chip, which Musk estimated would be about three times better than the current system.
How Safe Will It Be?
Tesla has had a pretty rough patch, some docile while some pretty serious incidents with some of their models but majorly their Electric Vehicle model, from 2015 to 2018. Cases have been reported in Shanghai, China that Tesla car models have exploded, while in 2018, there have been cases of two accidents in auto-pilot self-driving Tesla X models, leading to the demise of the person driving the cars. These all lead to masses not building faith on such autonomous launches by Tesla, especially in China, where Tesla had been trying to mushroom their impact.
Underlying these facts, Musk applauded in the seminar, for the spotlight and great work done by his hardware and software executives. He ensures that these models have all the hardware necessary to undergo full self-driving without any human intervention. These include a sophisticated onboard computer, eight cameras that cover 360 degrees, front-facing radar, and short-range ultrasonic sensors. These cars will have the ability to recognize traffic lights and stop signs and perform automatic driving on city streets.
How Real Is It This Time?
For those who are familiar with Tesla’s 2016 blog revealing that all of their cars have full self-driving hardware, this would be familiar that Musk has shown a trail of habits, which point towards never delivering on time. Musk is known for setting deadlines he cannot meet, and for making predictions that fail to come true. He had previously announced that his autonomous self driven cars would be delivered by 2018, which now he openly swifts to 2020.
There have been mixed reactions about this news. Early reactions to this were positive, if skeptical. The company’s claims about the capability of its AI chip were noteworthy and should have competitors like Nvidia and Intel-owned Mobileye nervous, says Sam Abuelsamid, senior analyst at Navigant.
While some experts believe that Musk has been jumping the gun. Tesla has been working on a self-driving chip since 2016 but due to the miss in delivery, investors appear to be non-reliant on the chip announcement but shares rose slightly in after-hours trading following the announcement of the robotaxis.
With competition like Waymo by Alaphabet Inc, in lines with self-driven cars, there cannot be enough emphasis on the radical of boom technology is creating almost exponentially. With the best of hardware and software integration, one still falls a bit skeptical when asked to fully entrust a machine over human expertise in fields like driving.
What are your views on this?