Keeping up with his reputation of making bold promises, Tesla chief executive officer (CEO) Elon Musk said he expects to start converting the company's electric cars into fully self-driving vehicles by the middle of next year to create a network of robotic taxis.
During an investor day presentation focused on autonomy, Elon Musk said that the customers will be able to put their cars on to a shared network of “RoboTaxis” which won’t need human drivers. With this technology, Elon Musk plans to compete with Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services. So basically, riders will be able to book a self-driving RoboTaxi through the Tesla app, just the way they call for an Uber today.
Here are the key takeaways from Elon Musk’s speech:
1) Elon Musk said that by "next year for sure, we will have over one million RoboTaxis on the road."
2) Elon Musk acknowledged the regulatory limitations and that not all regions in the US will immediately approve the company's futuristic technology. Still, Tesla's CEO said he's “very confident” in predicting the launch of the RoboTaxi programme by next year in certain parts of the US.
3) Elon Musk also predicted rides via RoboTaxis will cost significantly less. The average cost for a ride-share today is around $2-3 per mile, he said, whereas Tesla’s programme will likely come out to be less than $0.18.
4) For Tesla owners, there’s significant money to be made as well, Elon Musk said. A single RoboTaxis could provide around $30,000 worth of profits per year, and over a couple hundred thousand dollars over the lifespan of the vehicle, he said.
5) When asked how much autonomous technology is costing Tesla, Elon Musk responded: “It’s basically our entire expense structure,” which hints that the technology is going to be expensive.
6) Elon Musk claimed that Tesla vehicles are going to be so far ahead of other vehicles in terms of self-driving technology that it wouldn't make sense for buyers to consider other cars. “If you buy a car that does not have the hardware for full self-driving, it is like buying a horse. And the only car that has the hardware for full self-driving is a Tesla,” he said.
7) Musk also said the technology most of his competitors in the self-driving car space use to help vehicles detect what’s around them is lame. “LiDAR is a fool’s errand,” he said about the laser-emitting tool that, in the simplest terms, acts as eyes for autonomous cars. “Anyone who is relying on LiDAR is doomed.”
8) Instead, Elon Musk finds cameras and their vision abilities best to see and interpret the world around cars — much like human drivers. A major portion of the event was devoted to computer vision and how the driving world from streetlights to road signs is based on sight.