It’s happened again! It’s incredibly predictable, sure, but that doesn’t make it any less glorious or wonderful! During Tesla’s earnings call yesterday, where the company very justifiably crowed about their record revenue and Model Y production at their new Texas factory, Tesla CEO and adorable optimist Elon Musk gave the world what they wanted and confidently predicted that Tesla would achieve “full self-driving”—a term usually understood to refer to SAE Autonomy Levels 4 and 5, requiring no monitoring or input from whomever is in the car—less than a year from now. This makes the ninth year in a row he’s predicted full FSD coming in around a year! It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Here’s what Musk said exactly:
If you’d prefer that in glyphs you can visually see and then translate into language via your eyes and brain, a process known as “reading,” here’s a transcript:
Full Self-Driving. So, over time, we think Full Self-Driving will become the most important source of profitability for Tesla. It’s — actually, if you run the numbers on robotaxis, it’s kind of nutty — it’s nutty good from a financial standpoint. And I think we are completely confident at this point that it will be achieved. And my personal guess is that we’ll achieve Full Self-Driving this year, yes, with data safety level significantly greater than present.
At this point, Elon promising that Teslas will be able to completely drive themselves with a year to 18 months from whatever date he’s currently existing in has become a glorious tradition, one that many of us have come to anticipate as much as, say, Purim.
Someone has even made a video compilation of all the times Elon has made these predictions, starting from 2014:
Hey, where’s 2017? I said nine times, not eight! Oh wait—here we go. He claimed that by the end of 2017 a Tesla will drive by itself from Los Angeles to New York. Right. Forgot about that. I bet my junior high school friend’s Canadian girlfriend really enjoyed that trip.
Man, nine times! I love this tradition! Maybe we should make the annual Elon Predicts FSD a gift-giving holiday? Or maybe it could be a holiday where you promise your special someone you’ll get them a wonderful gift within a year.
Now, predicting things is incredibly difficult, even if you’ve had almost a decade’s worth of practice, and the challenges of developing a car capable of actually, fully driving itself are decidedly non-trivial as well.
And, truth be told, Tesla has made some remarkable progress, and while the system is in no way ready enough to be considered capable of anything close to actual Level 4 or Level 5 driving, it’s a very interesting bit of driver-assist technology, however still flawed and unfinished.
What is more concerning is that Elon is using these predictions of achieving FSD capability to then go on to extrapolate an even bigger prediction, that having FSD-capable cars will automatically turn all Tesla owners’ cars (well, those that have coughed up the now $12,000 for the FSD Beta option) into hungry, money making robotaxis, eagerly prowling the streets hunting fares to earn money for their owners:
“So, it’s — the cars in the fleet essentially becoming self-driving by a software update, I think, might end up being the biggest increase in asset value of any asset class in history. We shall see. It would also have a profound impact on improving safety and on accelerating the world towards sustainable energy through vastly better asset utilization.”
Yes. I think basically everything pales in comparison to the value of robotaxi or personal driving. I mean, it’s just — I mean, that just tends to warm everything. You just go from having an asset that is — has a utility of perhaps 12 hours a week per passenger car to maybe around 50 or 60 hours a week to a 5x increase in the utility of the asset. The cost didn’t change. Yes. So, that’s where just things just we had — just kind of where’s your mind.
Of course, even if, somehow FSD does get finished within a year, and everyone’s personal Tesla is now able to become a robotaxi, there are still all kinds of issues associated with that, ones that I’ve discussed before when other carmakers have talked about making their cars into revenue-getters.
For example, how do you safeguard all of your personal information that’s in your car from absolute strangers? Your car has your registration and insurance information in it, most likely, which has your home address right there. Is that information you want available to anyone who happens to get into your empty, roaming car?
What about all the stuff that so many people keep in their cars? Personal items, electronics, whatever—you’ve seen what people’s cars look like inside. Where do you want to stash all your stuff? The trunk? What if your car’s fare has luggage?
What if they trash the interior? You okay with strangers boning in your car? What if they do something illegal in there, or use the car as transportation to do something illegal outside of the car? Are you liable in any way? What if they get hurt because something on your car failed? Are you liable then?
Can you monitor what’s going on in your car remotely? Can you stop the car if needed? Can you somehow get people out of it? If someone gets in and tells your car to go to a chop shop and locks it in a garage, can you do anything about that?
This whole robotaxi thing — even if the technology to make it feasible actually happens anytime soon, something that I would not counsel any breath-witholding for — is simply not thought out to any degree where it’s actually a viable idea, and yet Elon is using this half-ass dream as a justification of why Tesla doesn’t need to focus on a really affordable car:
Well, we’re not currently working on a $25,000 car. At some point, we will, but we have enough on our plate right now, too much on our plate, frankly. So, at some point, there will be. I think that’s sort of a question that — it’s sort of the wrong question. Really, it’s really the thing that overwhelmingly matters is when is the car autonomous? I think, at the point in which it is autonomous, the cost of transport drops by, I don’t know, a factor of 4 or 5.
All of that up there is stuff Elon is pulling ex recto. The technology doesn’t yet exist to do what he’s saying, and that reduction in the cost of transport is a bullshit number he just made up. None of this is a reason not to build a $25,000 car. If Tesla isn’t interested in that market, fine, but this kind of fictional justification is just absurd.
Don’t even get me started on the Tesla Bot bullshit. That’s a made-up product whose current most advanced prototype is a dude dancing around in a lycra suit and the first use case for this still non-existent robot from Elon is this:
Yes. The first use of the Tesla Bots, Optimus, the Optimus name seems to be sticking at least internally, Optimus Subprime. Like if we can’t find a use for it, then we shouldn’t expect that others would. So, the first use of the Optimus robots would be, at Tesla, like moving parts around the factory or something like that.
Of course, to the Believers, this little suggestion of a use for the Tesla Bot suggests nothing less than the wholesale replacement of human labor. Here’s just one of many, many tweets to this effect:
Hold on, one more because holy shit just read this:
All their wants and needs provided. Uh huh.
And, I’m happy people are excited, but it may be worth it for people to take a moment, calm down, have a wank, and realize that robots have been moving parts around factories for decades. Here’s a 2016 video of some robots moving parts at a BMW factory:
Sure, these robots don’t look like a skinny dude dressed like a harlequin fencer, but that may be because unlike something shaped like a person, these robots can move whole racks of parts at a time, and not be limited to carrying two or three boxes in their skinny robot arms.
Robots doing physical tasks is by no means new at all and continues to develop. Human labor hasn’t been replaced yet, and while, who knows, maybe that’ll happen, I don’t see any reason to think that Tesla’s humanoid robot idea is going to be the thing that changes everything.
And yes, I know that SpaceX figured out how to cheaply and effectively land rockets vertically and Tesla made EVs fast and popular and far more common. Both are huge achievements, and neither has anything to do with the Tesla Bot replacing labor.
Anyway, I’m getting off-topic. I’m here to wish you a wonderful ninth anniversary of FSD being about a year or so away, and I hope you and your loved ones have a fantastic FSD Nextyearmas.