Tesla to begin self-driving capability rollout in August

Tesla to begin self-driving capability rollout in August

Electric car maker Tesla has announced that it will begin rolling out full-self driving abilities to its vehicles in August.

Tesla V9 will include updates to the driver-assistance technology, Autopilot, that will “begin to enable full self-driving features”, said CEO Elon Musk in a tweet to a customer.

Until now, Autopilot has “rightly focused entirely on safety”, he added.

Weathering the storm

Reinforcing Tesla’s safety reputation is critical for the company as its finances begin to settle. In March, the driver of a Tesla Model X SUV was killed when his car hit a concrete barrier on Highway 101 in California, and two years ago, another driver lost his life when his Model S drove into the side of a truck. Both cars were running under software control at the time of the accident.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) slammed Tesla for releasing details of the March 2018 crash without alerting the agency, as it is required to do.

Production problems have also plagued the company, alongside criticisms of its attitude to safety agreements.

After missing its weekly target of 2,500 Model 3s at the end of Q1, Musk revealed that problems making the batteries used in the vehicle were largely to blame, along with an over-reliance on robotics.

However, at a meeting last week Musk told investors that he believed it was “quite likely” that the company will be able to manufacture 5,000 of the vehicles a week by the end of this month.

Meeting that goal is essential for Tesla to avoid having to raise more capital to continue its manufacturing operations. Since April, Tesla’s factories have raised output from 2,500 Model 3s a week to 3,500.

Musk also told investors that he expects positive net income and cashflow in the second half of financial 2018.

A proposal to remove him from the chairman’s seat was voted down by shareholders. “This was… the most excruciating, hellish several months I’ve maybe ever had,” said Musk after the vote, “but I think we’re getting there.”

Model Y: Going to China?

At the shareholder meeting, Musk also teased more information about the Model Y, which is thought to be a larger, mid-priced utility spin on the Model 3. The new car will be revealed in March 2019, said Musk, with production beginning in “the first half of 2020”.

In Tesla’s May earnings call to analysts, Musk said that the production location for the Model Y had not been decided. “We’re really crowded here at Fremont,” he said. “So we’ll try to figure out what the optimal location is for Model Y production, but it’s not here. Not here at Fremont.”

He added: “I think Model Y is going to be a manufacturing revolution. It will be, I think, incredible from a manufacturing standpoint, because we do not want to go through this [Model 3] pain again.”

So it is interesting that Tesla has also just announced plans to build its first non-US factory in Shanghai, which would allow it to avoid import tariffs in China – assuming the strategy can escape the clutches of the ongoing US-China trade war.

Internet of Business says

These are testing times for the bullish CEO and serial entrepreneur, whose focus has been as much on the stars in 2018, as on the road. However, the signs are that Musk is calming nerves and investors’ wallets – for now.

Chris Middleton
Chris Middleton is former editor of Internet of Business, and now a key contributor to the title. He specialises in robotics, AI, the IoT, blockchain, and technology strategy. He is also former editor of Computing, Computer Business Review, and Professional Outsourcing, among others, and is a contributing editor to Diginomica, Computing, and Hack & Craft News. Over the years, he has also written for Computer Weekly, The Guardian, The Times, PC World, I-CIO, V3, The Inquirer, and Blockchain News, among many others. He is an acknowledged robotics expert who has appeared on BBC TV and radio, ITN, and Talk Radio, and is probably the only tech journalist in the UK to own a number of humanoid robots, which he hires out to events, exhibitions, universities, and schools. Chris has also chaired conferences on robotics, AI, IoT investment, digital marketing, blockchain, and space technologies, and has spoken at numerous other events.