During Elon Musk’s appearance at MIT research scientist Lex Fridman’s podcast, the Tesla CEO stated that he believes the improvements in full self-driving technology will eventually make driver input detrimental to vehicle safety. Musk also stated that there will likely come a time when human input while driving will be as unnatural as manually operating an elevator to travel between the floors of a building.
Musk’s statements are arguably optimistic, especially since even industry leaders such as Waymo have not yet attained fully autonomous driving despite working on the technology for years. Waymo currently leads the pack in autonomous tech, but the full-self driving operations of the Google subsidiary remain confined in geofenced areas today. Other industry leaders such as GM Cruise are largely on the same page.
Tesla, for its part, has taken steps towards full self-driving, but unlike companies like Waymo and GM Cruise, the electric car maker’s strategy is focused on artificial intelligence and input from its vehicles’ cameras, a setup that Elon Musk likens to the way humans and animals navigate with their eyes. Tesla’s upcoming Autonomy Investor Day this April 22, 2019 is expected to showcase just how far the company has gone in its pursuit of autonomous driving technology using Elon Musk’s strategy.
Tesla is a polarizing company, and it inspires dedicated supporters and passionate critics alike. Social media platforms such as Twitter host clashes between these groups on an everyday basis, and the frequently negative slant on Tesla’s coverage from mainstream media do little to help clear the air. Among Tesla’s critics, there are groups of individuals, some of which have taken a short position against the company (and hence are incentivized to drive down TSLA stock), have become more passionate as of late. With the date for Tesla’s Autonomy Investor Day approaching, a number of these Tesla skeptics have called for actions that will likely disrupt the electric car maker’s demonstrations on April 22.
Among these suggestions are braking in front of Tesla’s test vehicles, as well as intentionally swerving into the electric cars’ lane to ensure that the company’s demonstrations are authentic. These suggestions are incredibly dangerous, both for Tesla’s electric cars and their occupants, as well as the Tesla bears themselves. Intentionally swerving into the lane of another vehicle is never an advisable driving maneuver, and such actions on the road have resulted in numerous (and sometimes fatal) accidents in the past.
It is exactly these suggested behaviors that Elon Musk was talking about when he spoke with the MIT researcher about the future of driving. Full self-driving systems are built with safety in mind, and thus, there is a very little chance that autonomous vehicles will intentionally drive in a manner that is dangerous for itself and other cars on the road. The suggested “tests” from Tesla’s critics are easy to do if one is manually driving a car, but maneuvers like intentionally swerving into another lane will likely not be performed by a properly-designed and properly-calibrated full self-driving vehicle.
There is no doubt that full self-driving technology is still in its infancy today, but once the data is there and the neural nets have been trained, there is very little that can be argued against the safety and convenience of autonomous vehicles. Ironically, by aiming to disrupt the electric car maker’s upcoming autonomous driving demonstrations later this month, Tesla’s critics have ended up validating one of Elon Musk’s boldest points.
Watch Elon Musk discuss his points on autonomous driving technology in the video below.
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Author: Simon Alvarez