This week, a few problems arose in the autonomous technology sector. Because of Tesla and Argo AI Cars!
Ford (F) first announced in its Q3 earnings release that it was closing its joint venture for autonomous driving, Argo AI. Engineers and other workers would be absorbed by Ford and its Argo AI partner, Volkswagen, as part of Ford’s announcement that it would be incurring a $2.7 billion non-cash, pretax impairment on its investment in Argo AI. In order to wind down Argo, Volkswagen announced it will incur a $1.9 billion penalty.
After that, Reuters reported that the Justice Department had launched a criminal investigation into several crashes involving Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, which was engaged during those collisions, and whether Tesla had made false claims about the capabilities of its driver assistance technology.
While employing distinct approaches to get there, Tesla and Argo AI are both working toward Level 4 and Level 5 driving automation. To assist build its product, Argo AI collaborated with authorities and stakeholders, including groups that promote bicycle and pedestrian safety, whereas Tesla used its customers and even the wide roadways of the United States as a testing ground.
During this week’s earnings call, Ford’s chief product and technology officer, Doug Field, stated that level 4 self-driving “is going to be a pretty challenging challenge to solve.” The job would be “the biggest issue of our age,” stated Field, a longtime Tesla engineer who had worked on other projects.
Ford said that the development of Level 4 and Level 5 fully autonomous tech was a capital and talent issue, and that the carmaker did not know how much capital and people it would require to address the issue. At the end of the day, Ford and Volkswagen refused to pay the price.
In last week’s interview with Yahoo Finance, Ford CFO John Lawler said, “When we looked at the business opportunity here, we realized that the arc to a scaled, successful firm was a long way off — 5 years-plus out.” “[Ford technologists] think there are a lot of obstacles to be overcome.”
According to Koopman, the market is currently concentrated on deployment models like middle-mile trucking, which is autonomous trucking restricted to highways, and L2 and L3 assisted driving technologies, which Ford is currently concentrating on.
Koopman remarked, “[Argo] was taking safety pretty seriously, which is a good thing. However, the industry as a whole has been moving away from robot axis and toward other deployment patterns.
Although automakers have invested up to $75 billion in the development of autonomous technology, there is still little to show for it.
What happened to an industry whose addressable market size, according to UBS, would be close to $2.8 trillion by 2030?
Nobody seems to have properly factored in the difficulties that would make the self-driving conundrum so difficult to solve from a technology, financial resources, and regulatory viewpoint.
Wall Street is now pricing the technology in accordance with its assessment that the promise of autonomous driving is still too distant. After being valued at $50 billion a year ago, Intel’s autonomous technology division Mobileye was recently spun out and listed on the stock market, fetching a price of $16 billion.
However, some businesses are realistic about the investment necessary.
[Autonomous vehicle starting] Waymo is not dependent on an OEM (original equipment manufacturer); Google, Waymo’s owner, can afford to place a bet for ten years, but OEMs might not feel comfortable with that type of burn rate over that length of time, according to Koopman. ”[GM-owned] How patient GM is will determine how successful Cruise is.
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has affirmed his confidence in his company’s capacity to address the Level 4/Level 5 issue.
By the end of this year, you won’t have anyone in the car “During the most recent earnings call for the firm, Musk remarked. “And without a doubt, that’s what I have in mind for next year,” he continued. “I believe we’ll also provide an update the following year to demonstrate to authorities just how much safer the [self-driving] automobile is compared to the typical person.”
The DOJ, SEC, and NHTSA, among other authorities, are looking into hundreds of incidents using Tesla’s self-driving software, so it’s unclear when Tesla will completely launch its Level 4/Level 5 platform.
Where is the line between fraud and puffery? Koopman responded, “I don’t know. That’s a legal matter for attorneys and the DOJ.
Apart from issuing the permission if the testing phase went without a hitch, Koopman said there isn’t much a regulator can do when a permit is requested for the deployment or live phase. Regulators may monitor performance for safety risks once it is online or in deployment, like Waymo and Cruise are in California.
The only regulatory obstacle for Tesla, according to Koopman, is getting their technology to function.