Once again, Tesla is being investigated by the NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the United States, for its acronym in English). And once again, Autopilot is in the spotlight. Despite Elon Musk’s ridicule, the agency’s conclusions may be key to the company’s future.
The NHTSA. The government agency dedicated to traffic in the United States has shown a growing interest in the problems posed by semi-autonomous driving systems that manufacturers are progressively incorporating. In fact, it has already warned them that they should be careful with the advertising they make of them, as they claim to give a false image of what these systems can and cannot do.
Contempt. One of the companies that has been in the spotlight has been Tesla, whose Autopilot has caused some accidents in which drivers would have given complete control to the vehicle. Something that, at the moment, is not supported by the company itself, which remembers that the hands should always be on the wheel.
Despite the agency’s warnings, Elon Musk has shown his dissatisfaction on several occasions about it and has even shown his contempt for its evaluations, which he has called “fun police”.
In the limit. The truth is that Tesla has always played on the edge of legality, offering an Autopilot system that lacks cameras to check that the driver keeps his hands on the wheel (the fatigue detector will be one of the mandatory ADAS aids in Europe) and , has even chosen to eliminate radars and now all distance calculations are made by cameras, despite the fact that opting for this system has proven less effective, especially at night.
In addition, Musk himself has recognized that they have been able to develop their Autopilot system in the United States because the legislation there is much more lax than in Europe. Before the first accidents with Autopilot activated, Tesla limited itself to reminding that drivers should always keep their hands on the wheel and their attention on the road, but it does not seem to have taken measures so that the vehicle itself remembers this more effusively. the drivers.
Differential value. Autonomous driving is, however, decisive for Tesla to continue to grow. Its Autopilot system is one of the great differentiating values of the brand. In fact, to enjoy the latest updates of it, you need to be subscribed to a monthly fee of 199 dollars, which increases by another 99 dollars per month if you want it to offer a greater degree of automatism.
It’s about time. What I wonder is whether Tesla will be able to provide a software fix that doesn’t further compromise their cars’ automatic emergency braking.
Tesla’s Phantom Braking Concerns Spark Federal Investigation https://t.co/KNNw21UmI1 via @Roadshow
— Tim Stevens (@Tim_Stevens) February 17, 2022
This has allowed Tesla to count on its own clients to act as beta testers. People who have contracted the subscription, who report the faults that may occur and who, in addition, advertise on the Internet, with a whole movement of non-professional testers who record their routes and analyze the behavior of the vehicle in different situations.
Clue. The decisions of the NHTSA and the good progress of the Autopilot will be key in the future of the company. It must be remembered that in recent months (November and February), Tesla has had to withdraw two system updates, due to errors reported by its drivers. If the Autopilot loses value compared to the services of the competition, the vehicles also lose part of their attractiveness, now that the Premium and luxury brands announce ample autonomy for their top models.
Financing. But, in addition, that the Autopilot works correctly is not only a question of image before potential buyers. Ark Invest, a company dedicated to asset management, points out that the value of Tesla on the stock market will multiply by four in the coming years. They point out that, in 2026, a share of Tesla will cost $4,600, for the little more than $1,000 that it is currently trading at. They even point out that it could be worth $5,800.
For these predictions to be confirmed, they point out that an autonomous Tesla robotaxi is key, making up more than 60% of the company’s value in the future. An autonomous service that Elon Musk already pointed to during the company’s last major event in Texas, in which the launch of the Tesla Cybertruck was also dated.
The results. 2020 was the first year that Tesla was profitable. Despite becoming leaders in the sale of electric cars and having the largest autonomies available at the time, the company had to burn huge amounts of money until it saw black numbers in its accounts. However, a good part of its profits have been related to matters that have nothing to do with electric cars, such as the sale of Bitcoin.
Now, with other brands matching its technical capabilities, Tesla is trying to break new ground in business. One of them is the progressive opening of its superchargers, but it seems that it is autonomous driving that keeps investors loyal and that allows it to have market valuations that are four times those of Toyota, a manufacturer that puts more of 10 million units.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism