In April 2016, Nutonomy, a company dedicated to developing smart car software, was the first to launch the first smart taxi ride. The company tested a Renault Zoe and a Mitsubishi i-MiEV to create a reliable and accurate service for the world, starting in Singapore.
In the summer of 2020, Baidu, a Chinese multinational founded in 2000 specializing in Internet services and Artificial Intelligence, and owner of the popular search engine Baidu -the Google of China-, began testing autonomous vehicles in the Chinese city of Cangzhou. In 2021, it obtained from the Cangzhou traffic authorities the permits for 35 vehicles with which to demonstrate the possibilities of “commercialized autonomous driving”, along with permits for 10 vehicles to test without a driver
Driverless Tesla robo-taxi
Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, is very clear that the integration of autonomous driving with the urban public transport service will take place very soon. In fact, we have already seen several examples, but for the businessman the system will be a reality with his own Tesla cars in 2024, because Tesla plans to launch a dedicated robotaxi without a steering wheel or pedals within just a year and a half, ifAs Musk said a few days ago during Tesla’s first quarter 2022 earnings call.
This 2024 date leaves less than two years to develop, test, verify, volume-produce, and commercially launch a robotaxi service that meets regulatory standards that vary from state to state. In California, Tesla’s largest passenger vehicle sales market, it will mean navigating the permitting process from two agencies.
The dedicated robotaxi will be highly optimized for autonomy, meaning no steering wheel or pedals, Musk said, adding that there are a number of other innovations surrounding it that he finds very exciting: “I think it can be a very powerful product where we aspire to get to volume production in 2024. I think [el robotaxi] It will really be a massive driver of growth for Tesla.”
Tesla autonomous taxis for 2024
At the opening of Tesla’s gigafactory in Austin in early April, Musk outlined a series of future products that move away from his car business, which currently generates most of his profits. Among those products were a robotaxi and Optimus, Tesla’s humanoid robot concept.
Tesla’s search for a robotaxi puts it in competition with companies that have spent years developing autonomous vehicle technology for robotaxis, including Alphabet unit Waymo, Argo AI, Aurora, GM Cruise’s autonomous driving unit, Motional and Zoox. . It also calls into question whether Tesla intends to scrap its current strategy towards full autonomy or whether it will be developed in parallel.
Musk has been hinting for years robotaxis, 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 through an updated advanced driving assistance system called total self-driving software that currently costs $12,000.
ADAS level 2
Tesla vehicles come standard with a driving assistance system called Autopilot. Owners can purchase “full self-driving,” or FSD, software that Musk has repeatedly promised will one day offer full autonomous driving capabilities.
The FSD is not capable of driving on its own. It was consideredto a level 2 ADAS and still requires a human driver to pay attention and take control. Dozens of videos posted by owners paint a mixed picture of the software’s capabilities, including numerous clips of vehicles failing to perform basic driving and even suddenly swerving into pedestrians or 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 offer customers “by far the lowest cost per transportation mile we’ve ever seen.” If you look at some of our projections, it looks like a robo-taxi ride will cost less than a bus ticket, a subsidized bus ticket, or a subsidized subway ticket.”
Without revealing what sensor suite Tesla is considering for the purpose-built vehicle, or whether it would use only cameras or also employ lidar and radar technology, which is the industry standard, Musk admitted the difficulties of achieving true full self-driving through through this method, which ends up being a constant game of two steps forward, one step back:
“Regarding full self-driving, of whatever technological development I’ve been involved with, I’ve never seen more false dawns or where it looks like we’re going to break through but we don’t, as I’ve seen in full self-driving. And, Ultimately, what it comes down to is that to sell complete self-driving, you have to solve real-world artificial intelligence, which no one has solved. The entire road system is made for neural networks and biological eyes. So, actually, when you think about it, to solve driving, we have to solve neural networks and cameras to a degree of capability that is on par with, or really exceeds, human beings. And I think we’ll get there this year.” .
What do you think of the idea and the tight date? Will we really see these Tesla taxis in a year and a half?