What Has Happened to Tesla’s Driverless Lead?
In 2016, Elon Musk was extremely optimistic about Tesla's ability to produce fully autonomous cars. By 2018, Musk proclaimed that his cars would be able to drive thousands of miles without anyone in the vehicle. Since then, Tesla has been losing steam in the race for autonomous car production and distribution.
Waymo, which is Google's self-driving car program, is now perceived as the leader in the self-driving car race.
According to a report conducted by the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles, Waymo recorded about 11,150 miles per disengagement. In other words, Waymo cars rarely require humans to intervene. This statistic is impressive because an average person drives more than 11,150 miles in a given year. Tesla's autonomous driving system failed to achieve comparable miles per disengagement. The company has recently faced obstacles that have adversely impacted the production, testing, and usage of self-driving cars.
For example, Tesla's autonomous driving team has experienced a substantial turnover rate in engineers and managers. This turmoil within the autopilot team has come mostly from disputes about the readiness of the company to move forward with its self-driving program. Engineers have raised concerns about the safety of Tesla's products; however, Tesla executives continue to circulate these cars, aggressively. These safety concerns and loss of personnel have significantly slowed Tesla's progress in the development of autonomous vehicles.
Furthermore, Musk's Model S has experienced multiple accidents, some of which have been fatal, with their autopilot systems. Experts suggest Tesla's software is unprepared to interpret imperfect road conditions. For example, their system cannot accurately process obstructed road lines or aged paint, which causes the car to crash into dividers or other cars. Tesla's vehicles have also crashed into parked cars or objects on the side of the streets.
Tesla is trailing behind companies such as Waymo in the race for fully autonomous cars. Although Musk claims that Tesla will show significant progress by the end of 2019, his initial predictions in 2016 now appear unrealistic. Tesla will continue to lose momentum as one of the top producers of autonomous vehicles if they are unable to increase quality and efficiency, and decrease worker turnover.
Written by Matthew Durborow, Edited by James Mueller & Alexander Fleiss