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Tesla's Robotaxi: Elon Musk's next move in the self-driving revolution

By Mathilda Bartholomew | April 8, 2024

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Elon Musk has been making long-standing commitments about autonomous Tesla's generating income for their owners through passenger pickups and drop-offs.

Tesla's Robotaxi: Elon Musk's next move in the self-driving revolution

Elon Musk's fascination with self-driving cars is well-known, with him often touting them as one of Tesla's pivotal products. However, despite ambitious claims, years have passed without seeing cars capable of truly driving themselves.

But last Friday afternoon (8th April, 2024), Musk dropped a bombshell announcement on X. He declared that Tesla would reveal its robotaxi on August 8.

His announcement was straightforward, lacking any intricate details. "Tesla Robotaxi unveil on 8/8," the Tesla CEO (and owner of X) posted.

Musk has previously hinted at Tesla's plans to produce a car without human controls. He's also suggested that Tesla cars, equipped with Full Self-Driving Capability, will gradually improve through software updates until they can function as fully autonomous taxis, potentially earning money for their owners by providing rides independently.

Tesla has made strides in realising Musk's predictions for self-driving, although not without hiccups. Five years ago, in April 2019, Tesla projected the launch of robotaxis by 2020. These autonomous cars were expected to last 11 years and rack up 1 million miles, generating $30,000 in profit annually for the company and car operators.

Yet, Musk admits that his predictions can miss the mark. "The only criticism, and it's a fair one, sometimes I'm not on time. But I get it done, and the Tesla team gets it done," Musk stated at an event in April 2019.

Presently, Tesla offers Full Self-Driving capability as an add-on for new Model 3 purchases, priced at an extra $12,000 on top of the car's approximately $40,000 base price. Alternatively, it can be subscribed to for up to $199 per month, depending on the car's initial configuration.

In fine print, Tesla's online description clarifies that the currently enabled features necessitate active driver supervision and do not render the vehicle fully autonomous. Despite this, Musk envisions a future where Tesla cars equipped with this technology will skyrocket in value.

However, experts who have tested the system argue that it's still far from achieving full autonomy without human intervention. Kelly Funkhouser, Consumer Reports' associate director of vehicle technology, recently tested the system and expressed more concern about Tesla's ordinary Autopilot than the Full Self-Driving technology. She likened the latter to handing over control of your car to an inexperienced teenage driver.

Funkhouser stated, “You’re not likely to tune out and become complacent or over-reliant on it,” she said. “In fact, I would say you’re potentially more alert.”

Tesla isn't the only player in the autonomous ride-sharing game. Companies like Waymo and Cruise, a subsidiary of GM, are also making strides in this arena. However, Cruise recently halted its testing following an incident where one of its self-driving cars hit and dragged a pedestrian. Similarly, Waymo faced setbacks when two of its cars collided with the same tow truck within minutes of each other, prompting a recall.

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