According to a recently published study by Navigant research group, Tesla is currently dead last in the self-driving race, placing beside second-to-last Apple on the list of 19 companies. At the top of Navigant’s study were GM and Google’s Waymo, companies whose initiatives to develop and release autonomous vehicles to the public are ranked as being close to perfect.
Navigant’s analysis points the blame to Tesla and its eventual split with Mobileye, which was involved in the development and release of the first generation Autopilot system. Since its separation from the Israeli-based tech company, Tesla has spent significant effort in developing its own in-house self-driving suite – Autopilot 2. So far, however, the Elon Musk-led firm has encountered challenge after challenge, with improvements to EAP and new features trickling down in a rather slow stream.
GM, on the other hand, appears to have struck gold with its acquisition of Cruise, a driverless startup, two years ago. Ever since its acquisition, Cruise has been able to focus on developing and improving its self-driving systems using GM’s very own mass-market electric vehicle — the Chevy Bolt EV. Over the past couple of years, Cruise has made so much progress with its autonomous systems that the self-driving startup and GM’s engineers were confident enough to request the production of Chevy Bolt EV units that do not have steering wheels or pedals. The production of these special Bolt EVs is expected to begin next year, as noted in an Ars Technica report.
Waymo, on the other hand, has always been at the forefront of self-driving technology. Since the beginning of the decade, Google has been investing vast amounts of resources in the development of self-driving driving technologies. Based on what Waymo’s autonomous minivans in the Phoenix area can do right now, it seems like Google’s self-driving efforts are also paying off in spades.
Overall, it is easy to see how Navigant’s study ended up placing Tesla at the lowest spot in its rankings. The Silicon Valley-based electric car maker and energy firm, after all, is still catching up to the refinement and features of its Autopilot 1.0 software from years ago. Tesla’s approach to autonomous driving is also relatively different from Waymo and Cruise’s strategy, using Shadow Mode and its drivers to collect billions of miles real-world driving data from its fleet. While GM and Google might have refined their tech to a degree beyond what Tesla has accomplished so far with Enhanced Autopilot, both companies’ vehicles have mastered pre-programmed routes but seemingly without scale. Cruise and Waymo’s autonomous cars are only effective on areas that have been heavily tested and uploaded to their computers.
Tesla, however, is doing something far more ambitious and arguably riskier on many levels. Instead of mastering self-driving that’s isolated to specific regions, the company is aiming to roll out autonomous features that would work on a global scale through AI-based Tesla Vision technology. Looking at it from this perspective, Waymo and Cruise will probably take far longer than Tesla when it comes to rolling out their self-driving vehicles on a larger scale.
Leaderboard for Automated Driving Systems by Navigant
- Volkswagen (VW) Group
- Renault-Nissan Alliance
- Jaguar Land Rover
- Hyundai Motor Group