Musk says Tesla aspires to mass-produce robotaxis by 2024 – TechCrunch

Tesla plans to bring a dedicated robotaxi to market without a steering wheel or pedals by 2024, CEO Elon Musk said on Wednesday during Tesla’s first quarter 2022 earnings call.

It’s only two years to develop, test, verify, volume produce, and commercially launch a robotaxi service that meets regulatory rules that vary from state to state. In California, Tesla’s biggest market for passenger vehicle sales, that will mean navigating the licensing process at two agencies.

Musk adopted a bullish tone despite the many challenges.

The dedicated robotaxi will be highly optimized for autonomy, meaning it won’t have a steering wheel or pedals, Musk said, adding that there are a number of other innovations around it that he finds quite exciting. .

“I think this can be a very powerful product where we aspire to reach volume production in 2024,” Musk said later, adding “I think [the robotaxi] really will be a massive driver of Tesla’s growth.

Earlier this month, at the opening of Tesla’s gigafactory in Austin, Musk showed off a variety of future products that stray from his passenger car business, which now generates the bulk of his profits. . These products mentioned a robotaxi and Optimus, Tesla’s humanoid robot concept.

Tesla’s robotaxi pursuit puts it in competition with companies that have been developing autonomous vehicle technology for robotaxis for years, including Alphabet unit Waymo, Argo AI, Aurora, GM’s self-driving subsidiary Cruise, Motional and Zoox.

It also calls into question whether Tesla intends to abandon its current full autonomy strategy or whether it will be developed in parallel.

Musk has hinted at robotaxis for years, but not through a standalone product like the one he described on Wednesday. Instead, he has repeatedly promised to turn the Tesla vehicles people own today into their own robotaxi via an advanced driver assistance system called Full Self-Driving software that currently costs $12,000.

Tesla vehicles come standard with a driver assistance system called Autopilot. Owners can purchase “fully autonomous driving” or FSD – software that Musk has repeatedly promised will one day offer fully autonomous driving capabilities. The FSD is not capable of driving alone. It is considered ADAS Level 2 and still requires a human driver to pay attention and take control. Dozens of videos posted by owners provide a mixed picture of the software’s capability and include many clips of the vehicles failing to navigate basic driving and even suddenly veering towards pedestrians or into another lane.

During the call, Tesla acknowledged that its vehicles are largely inaccessible to many people due to their high cost and sees the introduction of robotaxis as a way to provide customers “by far the cost of transportation by lowest kilometer they have ever known”. “, Musk said.

“Look at some of our projections, it looks like a robotaxi ride will cost less than a bus ticket, a subsidized bus ticket or a subsidized subway ticket,” Musk continued.

Notably, he did not reveal what suite of sensors Tesla was considering for the purpose-built vehicle and whether it would use only cameras or also use lidar and radar, which is the industry standard.

Tesla’s comprehensive self-driving and autopilot features have relied solely on cameras and a vision-based approach to achieve autonomy, whereas most other AV companies rely on a combination of cameras , radar and lidar. But during the call, Musk admitted the difficulties of achieving true self-driving through this method, which ends up being a constant game of two steps forward, one step back.

“As far as full self-driving, of any technology development I’ve been involved in, I’ve never really seen more false auroras or where it looks like we’re going to break through, but we’re not. , because I’ve seen in full self-driving,” Musk said. “And ultimately that comes down to saying that to sell full self-driving, you actually have to solve the real-world artificial intelligence , which no one has solved. The whole road system is made for biological neural networks and eyes. And so actually, when you think about it, to solve driving, we have to solve neural networks and cameras to a degree of capability that’s on par with, or really exceeds humans. And I think we will get there this year.

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