Tesla’s Full Self-Driving suite is one of the most robust on the market. The semi-autonomous driving functionality has caught the eye of nearly everyone who has read about the all-electric vehicle manufacturer in the past few years. With many competitors on the market today, there will always be a few skeptics, and Aurora CEO Chris Urmson is one of them.
Urmson is an autonomous vehicle veteran who is known for his work in self-driving cars. He co-founded Aurora in 2017 to develop self-driving technology and has been involved with projects related to autonomy for over 15 years. Urmson also was the head of Google’s self-driving project for almost eight years before leaving in 2016, but his work required him to build the code that powered Google’s autonomous software.
It is no secret that Urmson knows a thing or two about autonomy considering his experience in the field. However, he remains highly skeptical of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving suite, stating that his work in 2010 is equally as impressive and robust as the performance of FSD. Most notably, Elon Musk’s comments regarding Tesla’s Robotaxi program that would allow owners to monetize their vehicles without driving them personally have Urmson especially skeptical.
Musk planned to have 1 million Robotaxis on the road by the end of 2021. Whether this happens ultimately depends on regulators and Tesla’s ability to improve its FSD suite to Level 5 autonomy that wouldn’t require a driver to pay any attention to the road. Musk has stated in the past that he plans to have reached Level 5 autonomy by the end of this year. “I think we could see robotaxis in operation with network fleet next year. Not in all markets, but in some,” Musk said during the Q1 2020 Earnings Call in April 2020.
Urmson is not totally on board with Musk’s predictions and stated that he doesn’t see it happening anytime soon.
In an interview regarding competing self-driving companies and Tesla’s Robotaxi fleet, he said (via Bloomberg):
“It’s just not going to happen. It’s technically very impressive what they’ve done, but we were doing better in 2010.”
It is no secret that Tesla has been lofty with its predictions of where it will be in terms of the FSD Suite’s rollout. With over 23 billion miles of real-world data, Tesla’s self-driving program is fueled by data collected by its external cameras, which is then transferred to a Neural Network that learns human behavior. This improves the performance of the suite with every mile driven.
Urmson’s comments will undoubtedly raise criticism from Tesla fans, especially those who are included in the company’s Beta rollout of the FSD suite. Tesla and Urmson do have some history. In 2017, Tesla listed Urmson and former Autopilot director Sterling Anderson for poaching employees for a competing venture. The lawsuit was settled by Aurora, who paid $100,000 to Tesla as part of a settlement.