I am in one Facebook group about Artificial Intelligence and came upon this interesting poll on the topic of “Who will be the first to deploy 10,000+ fully autonomous cars operating on public roads without a safety driver?”
Unsurprisingly, most of the votes goes to Tesla, made famous by Mr Elon Musk aka “The Real Life Iron Man”.
Of course, along the way, there are some competitors and some troll answers. Lets take a look at the vote count by the members of the group, after removing some of the trolls answers such as “Me” and the legendary “Dacia”.
|Dacia (Ok, still a car company)||4|
|Some Chinese Company||37|
|No one in the next 50 years||56|
We can see that Tesla is the most popular choice among all the voters, an easy 2.5 times that of the second most popular choice, Waymo.
It is also interesting to see that traditional car manufacturers are not favourite among the public, at least the Artificial Intelligence enthusiast, to be the first to lay out Autonomous Vehicles.
Tesla, despite the fact that they have been not been profitable for years with countless production delays, they are still the number one in public’s mind.
Tesla is primary known as a car manufacturer that produces electric vehicles. Other than manufacturing electric vehicle, Tesla is entering into driverless technology.
Technology has not reached a level where consumers car can be widely fitted with driverless technology.
Driverless technology is simply Artificial Intelligence at work. Many companies are tapping on this concept and testing their systems on the road. Traditional car manufacturers, technology companies and even Bosch, the company that makes consumer electronics, are in the game.
Many investors are investing in Tesla on the back of the promise of Elon Musk. Despite years of broken promise, it seems like the general public are still confident of Tesla’s prospect.
In this article, we are not going to look at their electric vehicle production numbers. We are going to look at the their autonomous driver capabilities.
Is Tesla as good as the world views them to be? To do that, we will need first understand what is Autonomous Driving capabilities.
Autonomous driving is basically the car driving on the roads without any human inputs. To do that, the car has to sense obstacles, humans and cars on the roads. Using radar, sensors, GPS, sonar and so on, to detect obstacles.
Up till now, autonomous vehicles are not mass-produced vehicles sold to the public for use on public roads as the technology is still not matured.
Currently, many vehicle manufacturers are conducting trials on public roads.
Essentially, autonomous driving technology use Artificial Intelligence to drive the car safely on the road. The car will be driven on the road, the technology will learn from the surroundings, absorb data from the road conditions and store them in their database. This makes it one of the up and coming technologies in the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Ideally, with these data, a fully functional autonomous vehicle will be able to navigate the roads, avoid accidents, and get the passengers to their destination in all driving environment.
Before we can achieve that, artificial intelligence will need to be on the roads to “learn” how to drive, recognise threats and so on.
The Best Of The Batch
To recognise the efficacy of their technology, companies measures the distance between disengagement or the number of disengagement per miles.
Disengagement is when the automated system is turned off and a human driver is required to drive the car. The longer the distance between disengagement, the better the technology is. The lower the number of disengagement per miles, the better the technology is.
Every year, the State of California Department of Motor Vehicle will publish a report of the number of disengagement on the test vehicles on the roads.
2018’s report has not been released, let’s take a look at 2016 and 2017 report.
Number of disengagement can be misleading as certain companies have a larger car fleet, therefore increasing the possibility of the Number of Disengagement. Which is why, Disengagement per Mile is a more accurate number to look at.
We can see that car manufacturers have generally not been performing as well as software companies in the past few years. This is likely due to the fact that car manufacturers are experts in the area of designing the hardware version of the vehicles.
Whereas, software companies such as Google, Baidu, Cruise Automation, have the software expertise and technology to collate the data and enhance the software behind autonomous driving.
As for Tesla, their numbers are actually one of the worst around in 2016. However, they have not sent any cars out onto the roads for testing.
However, the reason behind it is that instead of sending test vehicles out onto the roads, Tesla has been using customer-owned vehicles to test their technology in “shadow-mode”.
Therefore, we actually have no idea how good or bad their technology is. Which is very smart on their part.
However, looking at the trend within the industry, the trend is not on the side of Tesla, the car manufacturer. Despite years of hype and promise, Tesla is still facing profitability issues and production issues.
Tesla is unable to do its primary activity well, which is to manufacture cars, and yet they are trying to work on another technology, especially such a complex technology. Even with their primary activity, odds are against them.
Although it is possible that they can pull off a surprise, however, the trend and their track record is against them.
As an investor, Tesla is an absolute hell to invest in. Perhaps, Tesla is better off getting their cars on the roads first. Investors don’t even know if Tesla has enough cash to survive for the long term?
Nonetheless, it is still interesting to keep a look out for 2018 report to see who is the new leader of the field.
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