Elon says Tesla will field 1M fully autonomous robo-taxis by 2020 – AI experts call BS

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Credit: Elon Musk / Twitter

Elon Musk, the PT Barnum of tech, is currently getting a ration of ridicule from some of the world’s foremost leading AI experts over his ridiculous claim that Tesla will field a million fully autonomous cars by 2020.

Musk, as his oddly sycophantic followers are prone to point out every time he’s criticized, is a big-picture kind of guy. So, it came as no surprise when he told a group of investors at a private meeting last month that Tesla would not only hit that milestone, but that “the fundamental message consumers should be taking today is that it’s financially insane to buy anything other than a Tesla.” This merely proves that Musk’s super power is finding gullible investors.

One million fully autonomous vehicles by 2020 would be quite the accomplishment considering there isn’t a single consumer-facing vehicle with level five autonomy in production today – despite what Musk would have us believe.

The important fact to remember, when Musk makes his autonomous vehicle claims, is that he gets to be the judge when it comes to whether Tesla meets the mark. That’s pretty convenient for him, the company, and investors who don’t know any better.

Here’s the truth: when Tesla found it impossible to build an autopilot system to drive its cars autonomously, it developed Autopilot instead (notice the capital “A”?). Tesla’s Autopilot is a driver assistance feature that handles some of a driver‘s tasks. Tesla also has a system called Full Self Driving (FSD) that absolutely does not provide full self-driving capabilities to a car.

A Tesla can appear to drive itself, but driving involves more than just maintaining speed and avoiding collisions (sometimes). There isn’t an AI in the world capable of driving like a human because human-level AI doesn’t exist yet.

Every Tesla on the road next year could potentially have FSD and Autopilot, but they won’t be fully autonomous vehicles. Not unless Tesla does what Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and thousands of startups around the globe are years away from doing – develop a self-driving car that’s actually more capable than a human driver in all conditions.

The saddest part: Tesla makes a brilliant car full of cutting-edge technology. There’s nothing else quite like its vehicles. It’s a damn shame that Musk has to oversell his cars’ autonomous capabilities. He appears to be operating with total disregard for the reality of what it’s going to take at the political, legal, and technological levels for a million full self-driving vehicles to be on the road by the end of 2020.

But, chances are, he’ll just joke about it and give us a typical Musk “aw shucks” when he misses the timeline. Classic Elon. Meanwhile, people have died because they believed Musk‘s bullshit claims about the current level of autonomy in Tesla‘s vehicles.

It’s likely more people will die not driving their Teslas if he keeps up this irresponsible rhetoric.

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