What Elon Musk has achieved with Tesla is extraordinary.
He can claim to have forced all legacy car companies, with huge R&D budgets and ingrained supplier agreements, to relook their businesses.
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Many said electric vehicles would never be broadly adopted. But last year, Tesla delivered 499 550 cars. Point made.
Tesla’s share price reflects its amazing ascendancy, dwarfing the valuations of most German car companies, that sell ten times as many vehicles.
But for all the electric drivetrain advancement that Tesla has brought to early adopters of the battery-powered revolution, it has been enabled to keep a certain promise.
One of Tesla’s greatest benefits is that it has some of the world’s best engineers and technology futurists among its staff. And it produces all the code, for its vehicles, not relying on third-party suppliers, who can negatively influence technology trends, by an unwillingness to risk.
But what is the promise that Elon Musk and Tesla have not kept to fans of the electric car brand? Autonomous driving.
Solving the issue of adequate battery capacity, to ensure that Teslas have enough range to get their owners anywhere a petrol or diesel vehicle would, has been done. And Tesla deserves all the plaudits for that.
But the artificial intelligence problem of creating a vehicle that can drive itself is proving much harder. Near to impossible, in fact.
Musk originally promised that Teslas would have full self-driving software in August of 2018. That is nearly three years ago. And no Tesla is yet able to drive itself, on the level 5 autonomy, without any human assistance.
The sheer complexity of roads and other users, not to mention animals and pedestrians, create an almost seemingly unsolvable problem for Tesla.
Musk has been bold in promising that the company will release a Beta version of its full self-driving software soon.
Although after a Tesla reportedly crashed at low speed, trying to autonomously round a curve in China last week, this appears unlikely.
Feature image: Tesla