Tesla is no longer alone with the promise of “fully automated driving”

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Self-driving cars that consumers can actually buy are approaching reality. A particular caveat for Tesla investors is that this is not a race in which a particular vehicle brand is likely to win.

Electric car While this week’s Semi-Virtual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas played a central role, as expected, self-driving cars had an eye-catching secondary role. At the keynote on Wednesday

General Motors

CEO Mary Barra said her team is aiming to provide self-driving cars for consumers “in the middle of the last decade.”

Chinese car maker Geely wants to offer it before that.In front of the Planned minority initial public offering This year

Intel

Subsidiary Mobileye announced on Tuesday that it will work with Geely’s new EV brand Zeekr to launch a “Level 4” autonomous vehicle in 2024. This means that no input from a human driver is required within certain parameters, such as sunny days or certain geographic boundaries. .. Both companies expect this to be the world’s first consumer vehicle.Level 4 vehicles made for taxi fleets-so-called Robotaxi— Very few, but already on the streets of the United States and China.

Most of today’s advanced driver assistance packages are recognized as Level 2 Autonomy under the definition set by the standards body SAE International. The driver should constantly monitor the road. This also applies to Mobileye-based systems, Tesla’s aggressive “full self-driving” software in its current state, and GM’s next-generation “hands-free” ultra-cruise technology to be launched next year.

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Mercedes-Benz and Honda are pushing the boundaries in their home countries of Germany and Japan by allowing drivers of the most sophisticated products to leave at low speeds on the highway. This is technically considered Level 3 automation, as the driver is not always in control. The use cases are not extensive and are basically aimed at highway traffic, but they show both technical and decisive regulatory leadership.

Level 4 autonomous driving of consumer vehicles needs to take a leap forward. The difference between introducing technology to taxis and showrooms is that consumers require less geographic restrictions at less cost. Rooftop laser-based radar or rider-based autonomous driving systems that control today’s robotaxis cost tens of thousands of dollars. Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua said in a speech at CES Wednesday that the sensor and computing power packages needed to automate driving are “well below $ 5,000” for manufacturers to work in the consumer market. Claimed to be costly.

Based in Israel, Mobileye dominates the computer vision technology that underpins today’s driving assistance functions. Depending on who you ask, some clients have a market share of 60% to 70% and are hungry for technology such as BMW and Audi. Mobileye is Tesla’s most direct competitor in terms of self-driving car ambitions. Mr. Shashua gave a CES speech,

Elon MuskThe loaded phrase “Fully Automated Driving” to explain the level 4 autonomy he is currently aiming for.

Like Tesla, Mobileye uses data sharing agreements with clients such as BMW, Volkswagen and Nissan to collect large amounts of data via hardware already on the road. This makes it possible to create high-resolution maps in ways that a single company cannot. The difference between Tesla and Mobileye is that the latter always claims a secure backup system. Musk rejected LIDAR and now favors using only the camera as a sensor away from the radar, but Shashua plans to offer AV with all three imaging technologies.

But while this fight works, one thing seems pretty clear. When finally arriving, self-driving cars do not protect one brand. At least it won’t last long. Even if Tesla succeeds in convincing regulators to support its more aggressive approach, it seems unlikely, but Mobileye’s technology will soon follow other brands. And there are GM and Mercedes, working on a proprietary system with Intel’s rivals Qualcomm and NVIDIA, respectively.

Tesla bulls often point to the company’s full self-driving package as a way to justify the $ 1.15 trillion valuation. However, this does not easily match the reality of autonomous driving technology. In autonomous driving technology, the traditional means market leader is Mobileye, an industry supplier. Investors need to look elsewhere for a good reason why Tesla deserves a multiple of its rivals.

Waymo operates a fully self-driving robotaxi in Chandler, Arizona, and recently took a step towards providing the same for San Francisco riders. This is a test that provides a roadmap for Waymo’s expansion and may help Google’s sister companies build revenue-generating businesses.Photo: Karl Morohan

Write in Stephen Wilmot stephen.wilmot@wsj.com

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Tesla is no longer alone with the promise of “fully automated driving”

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