During Tesla’s Autonomy Investor Day on 22 April, the company CEO Elon Musk set out a new and more aggressive timeline for the company’s so-called ‘level 5’ autonomous driving car capability scale – cars that are so intelligent they can drive themselves anywhere, without any human assistance.
The event and associated presentations were streamed live, and attracted much attention from the media, thanks to a spoiler Tweet Musk posted ahead of the event, which said: “On 22 April, Investor Autonomy Day, Tesla will free investors from the tyranny of having to drive their own car.”
Tesla self-driving future
During his presentation, the entrepreneur gave more details saying investors would start seeing fully autonomous cars on the road from next year, 2020.
But there was more.
Musk also set out a vision for a fleet of networked, self-driving taxis that Tesla car owners may also contribute and profit from by allowing their fully-autonomous cars to be used as ‘robotaxis’ for a fee when not in use personally.
Musk described this programme as an online marketplace model comparable to Uber or Airbnb.
He also claimed that a year from now, Tesla will have a fleet of over a million self-driving ‘robotaxis’ out on US roads, dynamically augmented by personal cars, as and when the owners choose. He estimated that participating in this model would generate up to $30,000 per year for Tesla car owners.
To be sure, the pressure is on for Tesla to crack the Level 5 code for full, and safe, autonomous driving before its key competitors achieve the same. Indeed, much of Musk’s presentation bravado yesterday was about assuring the investor community that its new microchip – codenamed the full driving chip – was designed with the same goal in mind.
Still, Musk has gotten into trouble before for setting, and failing to meet, overly-ambitious product development timelines, and some investors and critics have already voiced scepticism over his latest claim that Tesla cars with Level 5 autonomy will be on the road from next year, particularly in the light of a handful of high-profile recent crashes and the amount of regulation required to govern the new fully self-driving community of robotaxis.