Tesla Autonomy Day Details Full Self-Driving Tech and RoboTaxi Service

Tesla showcased progress on Full Self-Driving and autonomous vehicle technology at its Autonomy Investor Day on Monday, April 22nd. At the event, investors got an exclusive, first-hand look at Tesla’s self-driving roadmap were able to experience new advances first-hand with test drives.

Watch it here (condensed to 23 minutes):

Key Takeaways:

  • Tesla said the Full Self-Driving Computer is most advanced on the market and at least 7X more powerful than NVIDIA’s
  • The Net Present Value (NPV) of a Model 3 could top $100K, due to the RoboTaxi service
  • Simulations for self-driving training are no substitute for real-world data
  • Tesla is capturing 100X the amount of real-world data than others combined
  • HD Maps and GPS should not be relied upon as primary inputs for self-driving as the real-world is more dynamic. Cameras are better.
  • Lidar is an expensive crutch and not needed for self-driving. Tesla has re-evaluated this over and over again.
  • Autonomous Full Self-Driving will be ‘feature complete in 2019 and ready for consumers in 2020.
  • Tesla will roll out the ‘Tesla Network’ / RoboTaxi service next year
  • The RoboTaxis that Tesla will build for the Tesla Network will likely have no steering wheel or pedals in a couple years.

New Full Self Driving Video

As part of the event, Tesla also unveiled a brief Full Self-Driving video showing a Model 3 doing a loop from Tesla Headquarters, getting on the freeway and then returning back. Note the view of the intersections now showing on the display!

Autonomy Core to Tesla’s Future

Beyond electrification of cars, the other core part of Tesla’s strategy is autonomy. As Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, pointed out in a recent interview, it became obvious to him that self-driving was going to become a critical part of any new car, and that purchasing one without autonomous capabilities would soon be akin to purchasing a ‘horse’ by today’s standards.

As such, Tesla has been one of the most aggressive companies putting self-driving technology in the hands of consumers, some would say too aggressive. In fact, when Tesla first released its semi-autonomous Autopilot capabilities, it did so with a partner, Mobileye (since acquired by Intel), but they soon parted ways after Elon kept pushing the technology faster than Mobileye was comfortable, and after notable deaths of consumers using Autopilot with paying attention to the road.

Tesla even demonstrated their advancements over two years ago in this famous self-driving demo video:

At one point, Elon Musk was so confident in the technology, that he promised an autonomous coast-to-coast from Los Angeles to New York by the end of 2017. He later had to cancel those plans as the technology was not mature enough yet.

Consumer and Commercial Uses

Tesla has continued to push the technology forward and plans to not only provide the self-driving capabilities for consumers, but also utilize them for its upcoming ride-sharing service (“Tesla Network” and Robo Taxi) that will compete with giants like Uber and Lyft. The theory is that Tesla owners will be able to ‘rent’ out their cars while they’re not using them and the cars, using self-driving technology, will drive themselves to customers wanting rides. Not only that, the technology is used in its Tesla Semi for commercial trucking, another huge market.

The theory is that Tesla owners will be able to ‘rent’ out their cars while they’re not using them and the cars, using self-driving technology, will drive themselves to customers wanting rides.

Tesla Robo Taxi - No Steering Wheell
Tesla Robo Taxi with no steering wheel

Not only that, the technology is used in its Tesla Semi for commercial trucking, another huge market.

Tesla Semi
Tesla Semi

Enormous Potential

If Tesla can capitalize on these three areas with autonomous technology: consumer, ride-hailing and commercial trucking, the upside is enormous. Tesla also has the advantage of producing all the products themselves (vertically integrated), unlike other self-driving startups that must partner with other manufacturers, adding complexity.

Tesla Semi Interior
Tesla Semi Interior

Most Advanced Self-Driving Cars on the Market

Today, all Tesla vehicles sold come with a full set of sensors (cameras around the car, radar, ultrasonics, etc.) and powerful computing hardware (Full Self-Driving Computer) that are far beyond what any other consumer auto manufacturer produces, let alone as standard equipment on their vehicles. Even today, Tesla vehicles allow autonomous driving from on-ramp to off-ramp on closed-access freeways using the Navigate-on-Autopilot feature.

Tesla has been singularly focused on advancing AI and machine learning autonomous capabilities via its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Neural Network, that is continually updated via over-the-air software updates to its fleet of cars, again something no other auto manufacturer currently provides.

Autonomy Investor Day Event

Given the enormous market potential of the autonomous technology and how far along Tesla has come in the market, its important that investors understand Tesla’s progress on the self-driving front.

Investors heard directly from key employees including: Elon Musk, as well as VP of Engineering, Stuart Bowers, VP of Hardware Engineering, Pete Bannon, and Sr. Director of AI, Andrej Karpathy .

In addition to presentations around autonomy, investors were able to test drive the vehicles with the latests development software that will showcase future Autopilot and Full Self-Driving enhancements, including autonomous driving in city environment and advanced summon technology.

Full presentation (over 3 hours!)

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