We’ve been talking a lot about Tesla and autonomy this week, mostly because of the fatal Tesla crash this past weekend, and how it appears that no one was in the driver’s seat at the time of the wreck. Predictably, this has sparked a lot of blowback from Tesla enthusiasts, who are notoriously, um, enthusiastic. One enthusiastic fan is Warren Redlich, who just posted an interview with electric vehicle and longtime Tesla observer Taylor Ogan. In this interview, Redlich suggested that other AV companies with currently operating robotaxi services were all cheating.
I suppose the fact that Redlich is wearing a shirt that has Elon Musk’s name on it should have been a tip-off, and all of his Twitter bio, but it’s still striking to see completely baseless claims like these made with such confident intensity.
Here, watch for yourself:
In this clip, Ogan talks about companies currently running robotaxis — which would be prototypes of around Level 3 or 4 capability — that is, able to operate without any driver assistance, at least in specific defined areas.
Redlich brings up Waymo, which has been operating a small fleet of robotaxis in a few locations with mixed degrees of success, and at least one crash. It’s Phoenix-based fleet of autonomous Chrysler minivans has been going for over a year, even if they do get egged by locals every so often.
In that clip, he flat out accuses Waymo of using remote drivers to drive their cars, something that he has zero proof of. He backs this up by saying that they have to be “faking it” because they haven’t scaled or expanded.
“They haven’t scaled because it doesn’t work. It’s a lie.”
He’s not wrong that Waymo hasn’t scaled up; but the reason for that seems much more clear than some shadowy cabal secretly controlling the cars — with no latency, from a significant distance — it’s most likely because the cars don’t work all that well just yet, and they’re simply not ready.
Not every company is willing to beta test 4,000 pound robots on public roads all over the country, my man. Some may just want to do it in Phoenix.
He doubles down in a later clip, when Ogan calls him out:
I agree with him that nobody has a “Level 5" car, because I think that’s way, way off, but there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Waymo is faking everything with remote operators, which itself would be a decent technical achievement.
Waymo does use some remote assistance, which seems a worthwhile safety failsafe, but there’s nothing that suggests it is using remote operation to drive the cars. If it did, you’d think it’d have avoided that wreck, for example.
He also asks Ogan to effectively disprove his made-up theory, which is always a dicey position to end up in. If he believes this sans evidence, nothing anyone can say is really going to change that.
We’re in a really odd situation here in automotive culture; as if the issues of the development of vehicles with semi-automation and goals of full autonomy weren’t enough, the strange, cult-like atmosphere around Tesla and Elon Musk has introduced a new level of absurd brand loyalty into the culture, and, if we’re honest, it sucks.
This is how objectivity and rational decision making gets killed, and we’re going to be needing plenty of both as we attempt to navigate a future with vehicles that drive themselves.