Self-Driving EVs Still Suck at Basic Tasks After $100 Billion and 10 Years of Promises


Elon Musk recently predicted that “self-driving will encompass all modes of driving by the end of the next year.” Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

The only problem is that by “recently,” I mean March 11, 2018.

Musk was essentially predicting what would happen over what was then the next 21 months or so. It’s now been about 54 months, and if we’re any nearer to a revolution in self-driving automobiles, it’s being hidden pretty darn well.

At the time, Musk was touting “Autopilot 2.0” software that he predicted would be “2 to 3 times” more safe than you and me — you know, human drivers — behind the wheel, according to an industry report on the South by Southwest conference published by Electrek, which covers the electric transportation and sustainable energy beat.

I should point out that Electrek has been criticized in the past for its overly positive coverage of electric vehicles in general — and Tesla in particular — so it’s possible that the outlet put as positive a spin as it could find on those 2018 comments from Musk. But 54 months is 54 months, no matter what spin you’re in.

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Last year, management consultants McKinsey & Company calculated that $106 billion had been spent over the previous 10 years on the development of “autonomous technology.” It also noted that “recent investments have flattened,” which, I probably don’t need to mention, is what typically happens when investors aren’t seeing a return on their money.

Even Electrek felt it needed to mention that Musk had been pushing his timeline out for at least three years.

“Musk has often put forward this timeline of self-driving being just ‘two years’ away since back in 2015 when Tesla was just starting to work on Autopilot,” the outlet reported.

“When launching Autopilot 2.0 at the end of 2016, Musk said that [fully autonomous self-driving] would start being pushed to the fleet in 2017, but he later admitted that the development process was more difficult than anticipated and Tesla has fallen behind.”

Would you ever trust a computer to drive you anywhere?

He’s still at it.

“I would be shocked if we do not achieve full self-driving safer than human this year,” Musk claimed in January of this year, according to a Feb. 1 Autoweek report. “I would be shocked.”

He added that the feature would soon be “the most important source of profitability for Tesla.”

Year’s almost up, and all I’ve been hearing from Musk in recent months has been how spammy Twitter is. He’s not wrong, but I’m not sure that observation is getting Tesla any closer to a self-driving car.

The automotive industry website Jalopnik noted Tuesday that Musk has been “promising that Teslas will be able to completely drive themselves with[in] a year to 18 months from whatever date he’s currently existing in,” calling the broken promises a “glorious tradition.”

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And it shared a video compilation of some of those predictions:

“Only idiots think Elon Musk is a genius!” the video concludes. That seems harsh to me. If anything, that video proves what a genius Musk actually is — at marketing, anyway.

Maybe not so much at developing self-driving cars.

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George Upper is the former Editor-in-Chief of The Western Journal and was a weekly co-host of "WJ Live," powered by The Western Journal. He is currently a contributing editor in the areas of faith, politics and culture. A former U.S. Army special operator, teacher and consultant, he is a lifetime member of the NRA and an active volunteer leader in his church. Born in Foxborough, Massachusetts, he has lived most of his life in central North Carolina.
George Upper, is the former editor-in-chief of The Western Journal and is now a contributing editor in the areas of faith, politics and culture. He currently serves as the connections pastor at Awestruck Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a former U.S. Army special operator, teacher, manager and consultant. Born in Massachusetts, he graduated from Foxborough High School before joining the Army and spending most of the next three years at Fort Bragg. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in English as well as a Master's in Business Administration, all from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He and his wife life only a short drive from his three children, their spouses and his grandchildren. He is a lifetime member of the NRA and in his spare time he shoots, reads a lot of Lawrence Block and John D. MacDonald, and watches Bruce Campbell movies. He is a fan of individual freedom, Tommy Bahama, fine-point G-2 pens and the Oxford comma.
Foxborough, Massachusetts
Beta Gamma Sigma
B.A., English, UNCG; M.A., English, UNCG; MBA, UNCG
North Carolina
Languages Spoken
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Faith, Business, Leadership and Management, Military, Politics